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Wednesday, 16 October 2002 12:26



Meet the Minimum Needs of All

By M. Radh Achuthan

We could meet the Minimum Needs of All (MMNA) through restitution and a 'Restorative Justice Compact' between the Rich and the Poor.

The Minimum Needs are:

  • Sufficient drinking water for each per day,
  • Nutrition of 2500 calories per day per person,
  • Localized basic clothing and shelter,
  • Basic primary health care, and
  • Substantive primary education of 5 years duration, in practice.

In our world population of about 6 billion, 2.9 billion live on less than $3 or Euros per day, and 1.3 billion within that population live on less than $1 or 1 Euro per day. The 2.9 billion may be designated as The Poor; they live mainly in Africa, Latin America, South Asia and China. The discussion that follows applies to the population of 2.9 billion people who live on less than $3 per day as outlined above.

First, what has been done to remove poverty at these levels in the 21st century? People have been concerned and their concern is reflected in certain developments. During 2002, powerful world institutions such as the United Nations, World Bank, International Monetary Fund, and the World Trade Organization arrived at "The Millennium Development Compact “(MDC), which intends to remove the dire poverty of the 1.3 billion people who live on less than $1 per day by the year 2015. Even if all the conditions of the MDC were met, it is unlikely that the MDC will unfold as expected, since only an economic incentive within the politics of time, (enabling the Poor to become consumers makes business sense in the long run), has been advanced to fuel the MDC.

What is missing but vaguely implied and necessary is an ethical compact between the groups identified as the Rich and the Poor, to realize restitution and restoration at these levels of justice, so far unrealized in human society within the politics of eternity. This ethical component to remove dire poverty and in addition to meet the minimum needs of all, has yet to be crafted.

Second, spiritually, human beings have been working towards this end, and in the 21st century after the lessons of WW 11 and the Cold War of the 20th century, we may sense we are almost there. We may wonder whether the groupings Rich and Poor exist in an organized manner. The Rich are identified and organized; the Poor are identified but have little representation.

Based on their material resources, both groups are armed, unequally of course and for different reasons. Any form of violence from either side in the pursuit of social justice is to be abhorred and will not lead to a solution. The pursuit must be elevated to a higher ethical, and a deeper spiritual level. But what human resources can we rely on to achieve restitution, and to elevate the Rich and the Poor to these levels of human potential?

We could easily familiarize ourselves with the facts, contend and agree upon the truth, and understand and reconcile on the steps that were taken historically, since we are used to these activities in civil society. We can then call upon our spirituality 'to make things right', through restitution and restorative justice, the best we can, after nonviolent negotiation. The outcome will no doubt fall short, as the descendents of those who have suffered and / or died in this context, will readily acknowledge.

Third, though no two situations are alike, historically there is good evidence that the process can work:
__ Konrad Adenauer, Chancellor of West Germany, got the Bundestag to agree to provide restitution to the survivors of the holocaust in terms of
support for Israel in 1950. He committed Germans to pay about $1.2 billion to Israel and the holocaust survivors, though, without acknowledging
any 'responsibility'.
__ In 1970, Chancellor Willy Brandt, took the process a step further absorbing some 'moral responsibility' on the part of the Third Reich and
Germans in general, for the holocaust.
__ In the 1980s, the US government made provision for restitution for Japanese American US citizens who were interred in camps in the US after
Pearl Harbor.
__ In the 1980s, Japan acknowledged some responsibility for the Korean 'Comfort Women' operation during WW11 for the benefit of Japanese
soldiers, and offered restitution to survivors.
__ Free under Nelson Mandela and Bishop Tutu, in the 1990s, South Africa formed a 'Truth and Reconciliation Commission', to enable all South
Africans to come to terms with the deeds against 'coloreds' by the departed Apartheid government of South Africa.
__ Beyond the civil rights legislation, Restitution for American Blacks on the past institution of Slavery is under consideration and yet to be agreed upon.

The above achievements of the spirit represent the recent political mood on restitution and restorative justice in the world on matters of diverse origin where the human spirit has found itself culpable.

Fourth, acknowledging the wealth and capabilities of the world in the 21st century, and

the ability to disseminate through the media the chilling disparity in distribution and consumption levels of global produce and resources amongst the different global populations, restorative justice between the Rich of the world and the Poor of the world, in terms of MMNA, as a form of redress for the past victimization of one part of the human enterprise by another part in the history of colonialism, can and must be placed on the spiritual / political agenda for resolution.

The current global opposition and ambivalence to the propriety of approaches like 'Shock and Awe' to impress consciousness and subdue spirituality provides an opening for the forces of spirituality to access the table on restitution.

Fifth, spiritually, MMNA will be about and around the identity of economic humanity-- the economic human identity of the individual. Who owns it? Is there a threshold? If so, imposed by whom? Was it a self-appointment? A group-appointment? Where did the sanction for separation on this identity in secular life amongst human beings come from? Did the human spirit authorize it? Was it of necessity?

Sixth, there is a need for a strong pan-poverty movement of the Poor that calls for the transfer of those held Poor into economic humanity. The Poor are strong in their spiritual human identity and in the process of realizing MMNA each group will be enhanced somewhat in what it is lacking. The Restorative Justice Compact would negotiate around economic human identity to realize these potential enhancements. The Rich will benefit spiritually, in ceasing to keep People Poor and become more wholesome.

MDC is a good beginning and it can lead to MMNA. In all this, Charity is not involved at all. Charity is a great restorative attitude and action as a problem gets initially identified, but it is not an appropriate response for one like poverty, which historically is created and maintained through one's own complicity in the economic structure, and historically endured by other human beings different from the self but aiding the self as a part of one's own system!

Seventh, when consciousness prevaricates from addressing the economic human identity' of nearly half the global population, elements of the deprived group, in frustration and ill advisedly, turn to acts of violence as in 9/11, expressing their grievances directly to the people of the First World. We condemn violence and uphold nonviolence as the only approach for resolution of grievances, and make an urgent call for a Global Truth and Reconciliation Commission on economic human identity. Meeting the Minimum Needs of All (MMNA) through restitution, is the proposed stable solution.

To help facilitate the process of restitution, it is desirable to get First World children of the pan-wealthy in developed and developing countries to be concerned about and involved with the issue of global poverty. It is undesirable to get them alienated from their less fortunate pan-poor brothers and sisters, through demands on their time, energy and ambition to participate in wasteful consumption. Hence the suggestion of 7/28/03 to the North American Human Rights Education listserv of 3,000, to make issues of global poverty a part of public school human rights education.

Thereafter, let the youngsters choose, even as we do.

M.Radh Achuthan, a resident of Southampton, is a professor of physics in the Natural Science Division at Southampton College.



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