Producer/Host: Meredith DeFrancesco
Today we talk with an organizer from the Maine Peoples Economic Human Rights Coalition about an upcoming conference on ending poverty in Maine by establishing the recognition of economic human rights. And we talk about an upcoming day long Democracy School in Belfast that examines how communities can assert their rights when taking on corporate projects they oppose.
Community members opposing corporate projects they see as destructive to their area is not new. Neither is the enormous power that corporations have to establish themselves and discount concerns as fringe. The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund has been working with communities through out the US, and internationally, to maximize their democratic rights, push to re-define how corporations should operate within a democracy, and de-emphasize the treatment of natural ecosystems as property. On Saturday, October 30th from 830 to 5pm at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Belfast, the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund will hold a Democracy School. We have with us by phone Chad Nicholson, the Maine community organizer for the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund.
In addition, the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund helped advise delegates to the Ecuadorian Constitutional Assembly, which resulted in an inclusion of the rights of nature in the new constitution, ratified in 2008. Ecuador is the first nation to recognize the rights of nature and a court to oversee.
Human Rights are not just about living free from torture, unfair imprisonment, and repression of free speech. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights,a nd even more specifically, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights have established a number of rights that recognize the gravity of economic hardship and access to adequate day to day resources; and they categorize these issues as human rights. Some of these include the right to fair working conditions, to primary education, to adequate housing, to food and to water. Social movements beyond the US have squarely placed economic rights within their struggle for human rights. In the US, it is not as common to hear these connections made , congruent to a prevailing ideology that housing and healthcare are not rights, but entitlements, or things one must deserve or earn as a result of certain financial paths. In fact, it is common rhetoric to blame those caught in poverty, and to take target at safety net programs, as if they are the cause of the problem. The Maine Heritage Policy Center’s recent report “Fix the System : Freeing Maine Families from Welfare Dependency.”, which has recently received press attention, is a case in point. Their recommendations include tightening eligibility requirements, and eliminating “handouts” for drug felons and non-citizens. The report emphasizes people should be further motivated to work. In last night’s gubernatorial debate co-sponsored by the Maine Chamber of Commerce, candidate Libby Mitchell said that she believed that there is not a shortage of work ethic in the state, but a shortage of work.
Nationally the Poor Peoples Economic Human Rights Campaign, a coalition of 125 anti poverty groups has been addressing issues effecting those in poverty, including a more universal national recognition of the concept of economic human rights.
Today we have with us member of the Maine Poor Peoples Economic Human Rights Coalition to talk about an upcoming conference called the “ Poverty Free Maine Convention – How Maien Can end Poverty by Establishing Economic Human Rights”. Welcome to the program Jan Lightfootlane.
Guest contact: [email protected] or 453-2353 or Larry Dansinger 525-7776