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Rights group urges stronger UN millennium goals to meet rights standards

Amnesty International (AI) [official website] urged world leaders to strengthen the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) [UN backgrounder] to meet international human rights standards in a report [text, PDF; press release] released Wednesday. The report, From Promises to Delivery, focuses on three main areas where governments can improve the MDGs during the coming review conference. These include gender equality, maternal health, and reducing the number of people living in slums. In explaining the primary focus of its criticism of the MDGs, the report explained:

The Millennium Development Goals are largely silent on human rights, and the targets they set are in some cases less than what states are already obligated to do under international law. For example, the MDGs contain no explicit requirement that states identify and address exclusion and discrimination. The targets and indicators for many of the goals do not acknowledge the variety of human rights factors that drive and deepen poverty. Integrating international human rights standards into MDG efforts could lead to more meaningful progress on the MDGs in the next five years.
In its criticism of the MDGs, AI called for gender equality in educational settings, stating that gender equality should be a factor in the pursuit of all of the MDGs. Additionally, the report found that the MDGs aimed at improving maternal health had not made progress, and faulted leaders for neglecting to address violence against women, forced marriages and reproductive rights. MDGs dedicated to providing assistance to the 100 million slum dwellers was found to be "grossly inadequate," in light of the fact that the slum population is projected to increase to 1.4 billion by 2020, and criticized the failure of various governments to protect this population from forced evictions. World leaders will come together [UN backgrounder] in September to discuss their progress on the implementing the MDGs.

The 192 nations that comprise the UN membership adopted the UN Millennium Declaration [text, PDF] in 2000, creating eight goals to be met by 2015. The goals concentrate on reducing poverty, increasing access to healthcare and education, and improving the environment. In May, AI released its 2010 Annual Report [JURIST report], highlighting a "global justice gap" caused by influential governments avoiding accountability for human rights abuses. AI was critical of the actions of the Group of 20 (G20) nations, which it described as having a "particular responsibility to set an example," and called on its members to join the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official websites]. The report stated that world governments had yielded to political pressures and used international organizations and alliances to shield themselves from accountability for violating international human rights standards. The report cited veto use by permanent members of the UN Security Council [official website] to prevent the international community from taking action on rights violations committed by permanent members and their allies. Last year, AI Secretary-General Irene Khan stated that the global economic crisis is exacerbating [JURIST report] the world's human rights failures, urging governments to "invest in human rights as purposefully as they are investing in economic growth." Khan spoke at the release of the 2009 annual report, which says that wealthy nations have overlooked "massive human rights abuses, entrench[ed] poverty and endanger[ed] regional stability," while attempting to assemble economic recovery packages.

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