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Ethics, Truth and Post-Truth: Political and social implications

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I want to reflect on ethics, truth and post-truth in the context of accelerated changes in the economy, politics, society, culture and digital knowledge, information and communication media, which give rise to cyberspace and the internet.

The power of a journalist, reaching millions of people from behind his computer, is controlled by national and international laws; professional norms backed by numerous journalist associations, instructions from his media and the everyday larger and commented code of ethics. And we all know about the duty-based ethics focussed on the importance of truth; the progressive ethics based of investigative journalism, and consequentialist ethics focused on society; does the article offend someone?. Can the publication of a certain issue do more harm than good, even if the facts used were correct?.

What about losing my job, or been attacked verbally and physically? but ethics light, pass by a coloured crystal  of personal values, personal circumstances and his own loyalties wherever they are: to the general public, to the customers, the supporters and the subscribers, to the employer, the corporation, the colleagues and the professional community and to himself.

In the real world of reporting, ethics seen by the public or seen by the journalist, are different.

There is a different perception of ethics between the public and the journalist, and we must establish the differences between the media and the journalist’s work. The public believes, that it is the journalists who is dedicated to manipulate the information, and most of the time, it is the means of the media that censures or favors the publication for financial or political reasons.

Yesterday I received a complaint from a journalist who after doing an extensive interview with the Russian ambassador representative to the OPCW about the role of his country in Syria and the use of chemical weapons in Duma, no newspaper wanted to publish.

Quality, Economy and Ethics

On the side of the journalist, it is important that they be paid well and that the expenses incurred to do their work be covered; the lack of resources makes use of second-hand information, copied from social media.

For example, last week the official visit of a president in the Netherlands was covered by the medias. To report on the official visit, a journalist I know, had to go to a city that is three hours away and the media did not paid the trip; since the journalist resolved to copying and translating the news that he found in other media and social media, which maybe they were copied in turn, the original source, the authenticity, the veracity of the interviews and the context of reality were lost, causing the journalist to fall into a lack of ethics and lack of quality of the news.

Scope of information and ethics

The limitation of resources in the media due to the economic crisis, has brought a fragmentation of the media that multiply and become smaller and sectorial, specializing in niches but with less scope; since the reader cannot read 80 newspapers per day, they better select their reading by topics. For example, we are dedicated to the diplomatic world and international organizations, with a first-class content but a limited public.

The fact that journalism no longer provides a living for people who work in the industry or invest in it, has reinforced the corruption that has always overshadowed journalism and has spawned more owners who buy up media to promote their wider political and business interests.

Working conditions in newsrooms – online and offline – are equally poor. A generation of young people in the journalism schools around the world have few quality jobs to look forward to. Some will survive as freelancers, but many, are destined for advertising, corporate communications or public and political information jobs. Now more than ever before, journalism income is not determined by attachment to a single income ow, but it is based upon creative solutions to the funding crisis and may include non-traditional funding, or a mix of civic, market and public resources.

As commercial organisations, NGO’s and governments seek to manipulate news, profit-hungry social media platforms undermine quality journalism, and political propaganda masquerade as truth, journalists’ unions are campaigning for a media environment which embraces the core values of journalism.

Postmodernity has many ways from its definition to its interpretation or understanding.

What has become called post-truth, seems the resurrection of the imaginary of Jorge Luis Borges, called magical realism and that Borges published in 1935. The writer admits that it is a set of stories written, in baroque language, by an irresponsible, that gets to falsify and misrepresent other people’s stories, although the stories are based on real crimes.

The writer also states that “the volume of stories is nothing more than appearance, than a surface of images; for that reason it can please the readers”. That is, to seduce them, attract them, deceive them.

For example, the text entitled “The Atrocious Redeemer Lazarus Morell,” was written between 1933 and 1934, and it reinterprets and adapts to fiction the historical, economic, political, racial and cultural consequences derived from the claim of Father Bartolomé de las Casas to Emperor Carlos V, by means of which he asks to replace the indigenous labor, already in the process of extinction, by black slaves brought from Africa.

Could something be more like post-truth, than this eagerness to misrepresent the facts in order to present them to the readers, to the audience, to society as if they were true?

There are no barriers between reality and fiction, between truth and lies, between subjectivity and objectivity.

The Oxford Dictionary declared the post-truth “word of the year” in 2016. This famous word, would not have been possible without economic conditions, such as neoliberalism, the market empire and the unethical neoprotectionism; of a political nature, such as populism and radical nationalism; social and moral, such as xenophobia, the rejection of the poor for being poor and racism; of a cultural nature, such as multiculturalism; demographic order, such as mass migration flows through poverty, wars or religion and above all, technoscientific order, especially with the technological revolution and what they call “the digital world” the “network society” that chooses to use terms like cyberspace , cyberworld, cyberculture, cyberpolitics.

The liberal production and consumption system, as well as its legal-political structures, experienced in 2008 a deep fissure of an ethical nature, generated by the black September of the United States Stock Exchange. The serious economic consequences, spread like wildfire across Europe and Asia. These conditions gave rise to forms of degradation of power and the exercise of knowledge and politics, which are resolved, in a certain way, in what we now call post-truth.

From the value of the presumably false, to the presumably true; on the basis that giving up false judgments would be giving up life. Admit that non-truth is a condition of life: this means, confronting ethics in a dangerous way beyond good and evil.

The act of thinking, of asking suspicious questions and of challenging established knowledge as absolute truths, translates into the transmutation of all values characterized by the lack of ethical commitment and by the predominance of individualism and particular interests, over those of common value.

The history of truth, seen socially, has developed in close relation to reason and non-truth, has gone hand in hand with the history of the State, as a regulator of the order and guarantee of the rulers over the governed.

Under the pretext of owning the truth, chiefs of tribes, empires, caliphates, despotic, tyrannical, liberal and totalitarian regimes have been erected. However, its most accepted form has been attached to democracy as a political system. Today, and as a result of the validity of the post-political as a degradation of democracy and the ethical misery of the parties, this place has been occupied by post-truth. This phenomenon, as we stated at the beginning, would not have been possible without the technological revolution, the digitalization of information systems, production, consumption, communication and the creation of cybersociety and technocracy as an alternative to the welfare state.

Post-truth, gives rise to manipulation and discursive and political deception, based on a demagogic process of impersonation of objectivity. The post-truth has created the smokescreen in which the post-democracy is agitated, with a serious deficit of meaning in concepts, now inflated and distorted, such as the homeland, the people, the citizen, law, identity or freedom. To this is added, the indifference of politics to the facts themselves, however inhuman they may be. In addition, it gives rise to the divorce between power and politics, since the former is exercised in a global scope, while the latter is limited to national states.

It is paradoxical that, in the framework of the digital era, in political terms, the post-tactical is worshiped, and the distance to the post-right (tyranny or totalitarianism) is shortened. Hence the non-truth, that is, the false and imposter of objectivity is an unpredictable danger.

The postfactual threat promotes false arguments, involving them in moving and amplified stories in the resonance chambers of the network and digital communication, until changing behaviors and influencing the decision of the masses. These resonance chambers are, in the postfactual, controlled and activated by machines or robots and are capable of generating a huge amount of information and news through the “private superpowers” such as Facebook, Google, Twitter, Instagram and others.

In the field of media communication, the worst threat to quality journalism, to honest, rigorous and respectful journalism, is the false news. The proliferation of false news that has brought “the chaos to the world of news”, at the same time, have revalued the role of the press as a reliable reference for information and to “control the abuses of power”

And we give way to securitization, as a trick of the politician. The trick, is the displacement that the governments of these times of late modernity, globalization and interdependence make of the genuine concern of the citizens, changing them for other problems. For example, given the inability to solve issues such as citizen insecurity, unemployment or growing poverty, this kind of politicians of securitization present other problems such as specular terrorism; or to confuse the problem of immigration with that of national and personal security; or an alleged international campaign to discredit the State.

Securitizing is, then, maintaining the state of affairs by using the public attention diversion resource.

Post-truth is an emotional root argument, which causes what appears to be true, to be more important than the true itself. It creates the illusion that there may be an alternative objectivity to ostensible objectivity. As its field of cultivation is public opinion, there, the post-truth makes concrete and objective facts less relevant than simply appealing to emotions or personal convictions.

Journalist Eric Alterman spoke of a post-true political environment when referring to the Bush administration’s misleading arguments about the tragic terrorist attacks of 9/11 and the consequent invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.

The political language that adheres to the exercise of postmodern power uses the arguments of securitization and post-truth. After historical processes such as Hiroshima and Nagasaky, the Cold War, and most especially, 9/11 in the United States, the securitization of international relations has become, in the political and business field, a kind of “discipline from fear”.

The risk of international terrorism and weapons of mass destruction have made internal security an unprecedented importance in the United States and private companies, especially in sectors such as transportation, information technology, finance, health, pharma, education and oil industry who are increasingly called and committed by the State to safeguard the internal security of the nation.

The corporate environment has substantially increased the recruitment of security personnel, communication experts and specialists in digital culture, because, in addition to having to deal with the direct and collateral effects of the fear discipline, they have to deal with strategies for managing the reputational risk, constantly threatened by rumors or discredit campaigns based on false news and the non-sanctioned objectives of post-truth.

The political problem of the journalist is to know if it is possible to constitute a new politics of truth ”by changing the political, economic, institutional regime of truth production”.  The truth is not something absolute or immovable. The truth is a dynamic, social, historical, scientific and political product, which is built and constitutes the heat of philosophical, ideological, economic and social disputes, which take place in a specific space and at a specific time.

The truth is power, and vice versa. Also the lie is a power.

The limits of truth and justice have been challenged, to promote an era of post-truth and post-justice, full of true lies and imagery, which seem to place us before the dilemma of having to choose between democracy or post-democracy, between elections and false referendums or Respect for laws established by consensus or social majority. Post-truth as a resource of legitimization of neopopulism has degenerated the exercise of politics and the performance of the function of the State and the rule of law, displacing rationality by emotion under a set of massive promises never fulfilled.

In today’s world we are suffering from a crisis of governance, due to the neutrality of the institutional framework and the rule of law. The world is heading towards a bankruptcy of authority and the system of representation, which exhibits a democracy that is increasingly lacking in content and malleable in its essence, which puts world peace at risk.

The post-truth, are nothing more than partial truths; the post-truth is neither a lie, nor innocent, but it is not the whole truth either, according to Jordi Gracia (“Post-truth is not a lie”,) the false arguments of the post-truth attempt to seduce the most economically and socially vulnerable sectors due to the effect of global toxicity virality generated by the informative and misinformation of social networks and digital platforms.

Post-truth is something that operates well beyond the reach of false news. In fact, in its twisted logic, it is much more important than something, whether true or false, it seems to be true, because this is going to be more important than the truth itself. Not only do the truths lie, but the lies lie in a sinuous, invisible and everyday dialectic that ends up being accepted as the appearance of truth.

In today’s business dynamics, the market economy is giving space to the reputation economy. What it is, fundamentally, is how the reputation of a company has as much value as that of its financial assets. What is the factor that gives this relief ?: the risk factor.

The company’s reputation translates into credibility and reliability of its investors, customers, employees, suppliers, public opinion and society. And in the same way that the image was preserved from the risks and dares of the advertising language, capable of making promises not completely enforceable, or, false, also the reputation must be safe from the claims subjective and axiologically neutral of post-truth and post-fact.

Building trust lies, is one of the great challenges of corporate communication. Hence the need to align, according to the approach of the consultant and communication strategist which is to safeguard the reputational capital of the company or institution.

The characteristic, par excellence, of that environment is given at the alternative media, capable of, through a tweet, a message via Whatsapp, an Instagram or Snapchat image, or, a statement on Facebook, a blog particular or an alert to the virtual communities of LinkedIn, create a parallel public opinion, more belligerent, more fierce and less respectful than public opinion, different from the published opinion, which is structured in conventional media.

The overwhelming force of autonomy that fuels the digital turn of communication has diminished the credibility of the media, which are a fundamental support of corporate communication. The dance between non-truth and post-truth generates a space that can only lead society, as a whole, to an inadmissible predominance of chaos.

We live in the era of digital information and knowledge. But do we control the digital information or does it control us, supported by the artificial and the posthuman? Will there be an algorithm that goes ahead with the answer? Perhaps.

From our partner International Affairs

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New Social Compact

Reimagining ageing: Older persons as agents of development

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pension oecd

Older persons are highly visible across Asia and the Pacific: they work in agricultural fields producing our food supplies, peddle their wares as street vendors, drive tuk-tuks and buses, exercise in our parks, lead some of the region’s most successful companies and form an integral part of our families.

Indeed, population ageing is one of the megatrends greatly affecting sustainable development. People now live longer than ever and remain active because of improved health. We must broaden the narrow view of older persons as requiring our care to recognize that they are also agents of development. With many parts of the Asia-Pacific region rapidly ageing, we can take concrete steps to provide environments in which our elders live safely, securely and in dignity and contribute to societies.

To start with, we must invest in social protection and access to universal healthcare throughout the life-course. Currently, it is estimated that 14.3 per cent of the population in Asia and the Pacific are 60 years or older; that figure is projected to rise to 17.7 per cent by 2030 and to one-quarter in 2050. Moreover, 53.1 per cent of all older persons are women, a share that increases with age. Therefore, financial security is needed so older persons can stay active and healthy for longer periods. In many countries of the region, less than one-third of the working-age population is covered by mandatory pensions, and a large proportion still lacks access to affordable, good quality health care.

Such protection is crucial because older persons continue to bolster the labour force, especially in informal sectors. In Thailand, for example, a third of people aged 65 years or over participate in the labour force; 87 per cent of working women aged 65 or over work in the informal sector, compared to 81 per cent of working men in the same cohort. This general trend is seen in other countries of the region.

Older persons, especially older women, also make important contributions as caregivers to both children and other older persons. This unpaid care enables younger people in their families to take paid work, often in metropolitan areas of their own country or abroad.

Older persons should also have lifelong learning opportunities. Enhanced digital literacy, for example, can close the grey digital divide. Older women and men need to stay abreast of technological developments to access services, maintain connections with family and friends and remain competitive in the labour market. Through inter-generational initiatives, younger people can train older people in the use of technology.

We must also invest in quality long-term care systems to ensure that older persons who need it can receive affordable quality care. With the increase in dementia and other mental health conditions, care needs are becoming more complex. Many countries in the region still rely on family members to provide such care, but there may be less unpaid care in the future, and care by family members is not always quality care.

Finally, addressing age-based discrimination and barriers will be crucial to allow the full participation of older persons in economies and societies. Older women and men actively volunteer in older persons associations or other organizations. They help distribute food and medicine in emergency situations, including during the COVID-19 pandemic, monitor the health of neighbours and friends, or teach each other how to use digital devices. Older persons also play an active role in combatting climate change by sharing knowledge and techniques of mitigation and adaptation. Ageism intersects and exacerbates other disadvantages, including those related to sex, race, and disability, and combatting it will contribute to the health and well-being of all.

This week, countries in Asia and the Pacific will convene to review and appraise the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing (MIPAA) on the occasion of its 20th anniversary. MIPAA provides policy directions for building societies for all ages with a focus on older persons and development; health and well-being in old age; and creating enabling environments. The meeting will provide an opportunity for member States to discuss progress on the action plan and identify remaining challenges, gaps and new priorities.

While several countries in the region already have some form of policy on ageing, the topic must be mainstreamed into all policies and action plans, and they must be translated into coherent, cross-sectoral national strategies that reach all older persons in our region, including those who inhabit remote islands, deserts or mountain ranges.

Older persons are valuable members of our societies, but too often they are overlooked. Let us ensure that they can fully contribute to our sustainable future.

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New Social Compact

70% of 10-Year-Olds now in Learning Poverty, Unable to Read and Understand a Simple Text

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As a result of the worst shock to education and learning in recorded history, learning poverty has increased by a third in low- and middle-income countries, with an estimated 70% of 10-year-olds unable to understand a simple written text, according to a new report published today by the World Bank, UNESCO, UNICEF, UK government Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), USAID, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. This rate was 57% before the pandemic, but now the learning crisis has deepened.This generation of students now risks losing $21 trillion in potential lifetime earnings in present value, or the equivalent of 17% of today’s global GDP, up from the $17 trillion estimated in 2021.

The State of Global Learning Poverty: 2022 Update report shows that prolonged school closures, poor mitigation effectiveness, and household-income shocks had the biggest impact on learning poverty in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC), with a predicted 80% of children at the end-of-primary-school-age now unable to understand a simple written text, up from around 50% pre-pandemic. The next-largest increase is in South Asia, where predictions put at 78% the share of children that lack minimum literacy proficiency, up from 60% pre-pandemic. Emerging data measuring actual learning levels of children in reopened school systems around the world corroborate the predictions of large learning losses.  In Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), increases in learning poverty were smaller, as school closures in this region typically lasted only a few months, but stand now at an extremely high 89%. In all other regions, simulations show increases in learning poverty.    

The report also shows that even before COVID-19, the global learning crisis was deeper than previously thought. The global average pre-pandemic learning poverty rate, previously estimated at 53% for 2015, was even higher – with updated and revised data revealing that 57% of 10-year-olds in low- and middle-income countries were not able to read and understand a simple text, the measure for learning poverty. In regions, such as LAC and SSA, in which temporally comparable data is available, the report notes that learning poverty has remained stagnant in this period. This highlights that returning to the pre-COVID status quo will not secure the future of the world’s children – a vigorous learning recovery and acceleration is needed.

Prolonged school closures and unequal mitigation strategies have worsened learning inequality among children. Evidence is mounting that children from lower socioeconomic backgrounds and other disadvantaged groups are suffering larger learning losses. Children with the most fragile grasp of foundational literacy before the closures are most likely to have suffered larger learning losses. Without strong foundational skills, children are unlikely to acquire the technical and higher-order skills needed to thrive in increasingly demanding labor markets and more complex societies.

The need for sustained commitment at all levels of society

The new World Bank, UNESCO, UNICEF, FCDO, USAID, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation report emphasizes that learning recovery and acceleration requires sustained national political commitment, from the highest political levels to all members of society. Turning the tide against the longer-term learning crisis will require national coalitions for learning recovery – coalitions that include families, educators, civil society, the business community, and other ministries beyond the education ministry.  Commitment needs to be further translated into concrete action at the national and sub-national levels, with better assessment of learning to fill the vast data gaps, clear targets for progress, and evidence-based plans for learning recovery and acceleration. 

Given the scale of the challenges and scarcity of resources, countries need to concentrate their efforts on the most cost-effective approaches to tackle learning poverty. 

The RAPID framework offers a menu of evidence-based interventions that education systems can implement to help children recover lost learning, and to accelerate long-term progress in foundational learning.  Governments must make sure that education systems:

  • Reach every child and keep them in school
  • Assess learning levels regularly
  • Prioritize teaching the fundamentals
  • Increase the efficiency of instruction, including through catch-up learning
  • Develop psychosocial health and well-being.

These interventions must be implemented as part of a national learning recovery program that can also serve as a springboard for building more effective, equitable, and resilient education systems. To lead to broad, sustained change, the program will need to be accompanied by much-needed systemic strengthening. This is critical to closing learning gaps as much as possible by 2030 to ensure that all children and youth have the opportunity to shape the bright futures they deserve.  

Partner quotes:

World Bank:

Jaime Saavedra, Global Director for Education, World Bank: “COVID-19 has devastated learning around the world, dramatically increasing the number of children living in Learning Poverty. With 7 in 10 of today’s 10-year-olds in low- and middle-income countries now unable to read a simple text, political leaders and society must swiftly move to recover this generation’s future by ensuring learning recovery strategies and investments. The World Bank is committed to supporting countries during these challenging times. Together, we can build forward better more equitable, effective, and resilient education. We owe it not only to the children and youth of this generation, but to ourselves – in their minds rests our future.”

FCDO:

Alicia Herbert OBE, Director Education, Gender and Equality and Gender Envoy, FCDO: “This important document helps us to better understand where we are on education globally, and how we can ensure that all children are supported to get on track to achieve 12 years of quality education. The report shows what we feared. Even fewer children are now able to access a quality education, due to the impact of COVID-19 and school closures globally, especially the most marginalised. An estimated 7 in 10 of all children in low- and middle-income countries cannot read a simple text with comprehension by age 10.  This is unacceptable. We must come together to pay attention and to act, so that all children can get back to school and learn.”

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation:

Dr. Benjamin Piper, Director of Global Education, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation: “I want readers of this report to have at least two responses. The first is profound sadness at the magnitude of the learning crisis. The learning poverty data highlights the shocking inequality that persists in learning outcomes, with 87% of children in Africa unable to read and understand a simple text. This data was collected before the COVID-19 pandemic, but the new simulations suggest this has increased to 89%. This is sad, but it’s also wrong. The second is that we have solutions that can work at scale and in government systems. Committing to substantial learning recovery programs is a start, but the composition of those programs matter: measure learning outcomes, but also invest in improving instruction through structured pedagogy or teaching at the right level interventions while increasing instructional time. Countries that do this have a real opportunity not only to recover learning lost due to COVID-19, but to make significant progress to reduce learning poverty by 2030.”

UNESCO:

Stefania Giannini, UNESCO Assistant-Director General for Education: “These estimates ring the alarm louder than ever on the urgency to prioritize education in recovery plans and beyond. We must invest in holistic and transformative policies that act on the multiple causes of the learning crisis, mobilize the international community, and put in place all the conditions to ensure that no child falls behind. The Transforming Education Pre-Summit, from June 28 to 30 at UNESCO headquarters in Paris, and the Transforming Education Summit, on 19 September in New York, are our opportunity to set learning on the right tracks and fulfill the SDG4 promise to ensure quality education and lifelong learning opportunities for all.”

UNICEF:

Robert Jenkins, UNICEF Global Director of Education: “Getting children back into the classroom is just the first step – but if we stop there, we will rob millions of children of the chance to reach their full potential.  Every child has a right not only to be in school, but to learn in school, acquiring the basic skills that are the foundation for higher learning and higher income levels someday – in turn supporting equitable development and sustainable growth. We need to reach every child, in every situation. We need to assess their learning level and help them master the basics, so they can move ahead as confident learners. And especially for children living through conflicts and crises, we need to support children’s learning by making sure they have the psychosocial support they need. We can’t let children’s learning become yet another casualty of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

USAID:

LeAnna Marr, Acting Deputy Assistant Administrator, Bureau for Development, Democracy, and Innovation, Center for Education, USAID: “The State of Global Learning Poverty is an urgent call for commitment. Recovering from this massive shock will require all of us – governments, families, educators, civil society, and the private sector – to double our efforts to ensure every child is supported to return to school and catch up on learning. In the wake of the worst shock to education and learning in a century, USAID is committed to continuing our support to the recovery and transformation of education to ensure all children and youth are able to return to safe and quality learning. USAID will continue to build on our investments and lead globally in foundational learning, strengthening resilience in education systems, and equipping the next generation with the skills needed for lifelong success.”

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Overturning of Roe v Wade abortion law a ‘huge blow to women’s human rights’

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Friday’s decision by the US Supreme Court which overturns the 50-year-old Roe v Wade judgement guaranteeing access to abortion across the United States, was described by the UN human rights chief as “a huge blow to women’s human rights and gender equality.”

The widely anticipated Supreme Court decision, by six votes to three, was made in the specific case of Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health, and Michelle Bachelet said in a statement that it represents a “major setback” for sexual and reproductive health across the US.

The historic decision returns all questions of legality and access to abortion, to the individual states.

Reacting earlier to the US ruling, without making specific reference to it, the UN sexual and reproductive health agency (UNFPA) and the World Health Organization (WHO) noted that a staggering 45 per cent of all abortions around the world, are unsafe, making the procedure a leading cause of maternal death.

The agencies said it was inevitable that more women will die, as restrictions by national or regional governments increase.

Restrictions, ineffective

“Whether abortion is legal or not, it happens all too often. Data show that restricting access to abortion does not prevent people from seeking abortion, it simply makes it more deadly”, UNFPA highlighted.

According to the agencies’ 2022 State of World Population report, nearly half of all pregnancies worldwide are unintended, and over 60 per cent of these may end in abortion.

UNFPA said that it feared that more unsafe abortions will occur around the world if access becomes more restricted.

“Decisions reversing progress gained have a wider impact on the rights and choices of women and adolescents everywhere”, the agency emphasized.

WHO echoed the message on their official Twitter account, reminding that removing barriers to abortion “protects women’s lives, health and human rights”.

An attack on women’s autonomy

Ms. Bachelet further reminded that access to safe, legal and effective abortion is firmly rooted in international human right law and is at the core of women and girls’ autonomy, and ability to make their own choices about their bodies and lives, free of discrimination, violence and coercion.

This decision strips such autonomy from millions of women in the US, in particular those with low incomes and those belonging to racial and ethnic minorities, to the detriment of their fundamental rights”, she warned.

The rights chief highlighted that the decision came after more than 50 countries with previously restrictive laws have liberalized their abortion legislation over the past 25 years.

With today’s ruling, the US is regrettably moving away from this progressive trend”, she said.

Meanwhile, the UN agency, UN Women, cautioned in another statement that the ability of women to control what happens to their own bodies, is also associated with the roles women are able to play in society, whether as a member of the family, the workforce, or government. 

Countries’ responsibilities

The 1994 Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), signed by 179 countries including the United States, recognized how deadly unsafe abortions are, and urged all countries to provide post-abortion care to save lives, irrespective of the legal status of abortion.

The document – resulting from a high-level meeting in Cairo, Egypt—also highlighted that all people should be able to access quality information about their reproductive health and contraceptives.

UNFPA, as the custodian of the Programme of Action, advocates for the right of all couples and individuals to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing and timing of their children and to have the information and means to do so.

The agency also warned that if unsafe abortions continue, Sustainable Development Goal 3, related to maternal health, to which all UN Member States have committed, will be at risk of not being met.

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