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Repressive governments often defend their practices by asserting that human rights must take a back seat to economic development. In 1992, Human Rights Watch challenged this false dichotomy between political and civil rights and economic rights in two publications, Indivisible Human Rights: The Relationship of Political and Civil Rights to Survival, Subsistence and Poverty and Defending the Earth: Abuses of Human Rights and the Environment.

Indivisible Human Rights, released in September at the summit meeting of non-aligned nations in Jakarta, illustrated the connection between socioeconomic well being and enjoyment of certain civil and political rights, particularly freedom of expression, association, and the press, free and competitive elections, and freedom of movement. The report addressed four areas-famine, land, environment, and work-where subsistence and survival are related to, and sometimes dependent upon, guarantees of civil and political rights.

Every single major famine in modern history has been caused, at least in significant part, by systematic abuse of human rights. If food shortages exist, assistance to stricken areas can be mobilized only when information about shortages can be shared and governments are obliged to act responsibly. Principles of democratic accountability lie at the heart of an effective system of famine prevention: a free press and democratically electedrepresentatives can disseminate information, pressure a government to respond, and seek to correct past mistakes.

India provides an example of a country that has successfully avoided famine in recent years, despite droughts and chronic poverty. This is due in great part to a free press that exposes abuses, and a democratically elected government that is pressured to respond to shortages. Tanzania also demonstrates the importance of political accountability in triggering a government response: food is an electoral issue in Tanzania's competitive electoral environment, so local representatives are quick to request relief for their district. Frequently, however, governments have suppressed information about the onset of famine with impunity. The most serious famine in recorded history, which claimed between 15 and 30 million lives in China between 1958 and 1961, occurred in virtual secrecy. The famine was propelled by the Chinese government's restrictions on the flow of information on crops among provinces and its unwillingness, even when it knew the extent of the famine, to respond. Warfare, and the accompanying censorship of information and restrictions on movement of people and food, caused major famines in the 1980s in Eritrea and southern Sudan.

Land use and ownership is another context in which democratic accountability is closely intertwined with a community's survival. In urban and rural areas alike, subsistence often depends upon access to land on which people may farm, live, set up shop, or herd animals. Governments that abuse their authority over land use can jeopardize entire communities. For example, freedom of movement is essential to the livelihood of pastoral nomadic populations or those who depend upon trade or migrant labor. However, some governments deny this freedom, by restricting pastoralists to land insufficient to sustain their herds, as in Kenya, or by closing markets and encouraging settled farmers to deny pastoralists access to land, as in Mali. Livelihood is also endangered through forced relocation schemes, where dominant groups are moved into a community, or subordinate groups out, for commercial, political or security reasons. In South Africa, the denial of civil and political rights to the majority black population has been an essential tool in permitting the government to displace large numbers of black residents.

Businesses and governments forcibly evict peasants and villages for new development projects, for commercial farming or logging and other business interests. These evictions are often accomplished by quashing political rights: those who protest are arrested or threatened with arrest, and some villagers are never compensated for their seized land. Urban residents are at risk as well, as governments violently relocate squatters who have adverse tribal or political affiliations. When there are few checks on government authority to seize land, or no sanctions against private actors who dispossess others of land, subsistence is endangered.

Enforcement of labor rights, particularly the rights of workers to organize, bargain collectively and to be free of forced or involuntary labor, is in many countries directly linked to workers' health and economic survival. Suppression of these labor rights is made easier when there is no free press to question government policies, no opposition parties, no accountability andlittle or no possibility of the poor successfully challenging their abusers through the courts.

The most obvious way in which deprivation of labor rights leads to socioeconomic devastation is the practice of forced labor. Workers' lives are also routinely endangered by hazardous working conditions: from Indonesia's shoe manufacturing plants to a non-union United States chicken processing plant, workers have died in unsafe work environments. The ability of industry owners and governments to suppress information about safety violations, and to prevent workers from forming effective unions that could seek enforcement of safety codes, allows these abuses to continue unredressed. The tactics used by governments to prevent the formation of unions include allowing only a single, government-controlled union, as in China; making formation of independent unions so difficult as to be practically impossible (Indonesia); registration procedures that give the government control over opposition unions (Mexico); and, in many countries, direct attacks on unionists to discourage organizing.

Defending the Earth, published jointly with the Natural Resources Defense Counsel and presented at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in June, examined the link between denial of civil and political rights and environmental degradation. People all over the world die and suffer from environmental and human calamities that could have been avoided if the policies that led to them had been subjected to public scrutiny and debate. Defending the Earth detailed this relationship through numerous case studies in which censorship of free expression contributed directly to environmental degradation.

Governmental suppression of environmental activism takes numerous forms. In some countries, activists suffer direct physical attacks, imprisonment, official denunciation or harassment, or retaliatory libel suits. Governments also use their broad authority to regulate private associations to disband or harass environmentally activist organizations. Because the press plays a critical role in stimulating public awareness of environmental issues, the media and journalists are often the target of censorship and harassment. Governments also fire or punish "whistleblowers" to silence those who question policy or expose misconduct. Lastly, governments restrict access to information about environmental issues, thus limiting the public's ability to respond.

In Brazil, for example, rural activists fighting the destruction of the rain forest have been murdered. Malaysia has used its repressive internal security laws to detain and harass anti-logging groups. Eritrea's devastated natural environment is a result of the last 30 years of warfare and the Ethiopian government's policies of massive forced relocation of people, destruction of feasible land use practices, and suppression of information. In the former Soviet Union, extreme repression of dissent allowed massive environmental abuses to continue unchallenged. At the other end of the political spectrum, even a democratic society like India has engaged in police abuse and used its "Official Secrets Act" to suppress opposition to an environmentally hazardous dam project. "Whistleblowers" in theUnited States who alert the public to safety hazards in the nuclear weapons industry have been persecuted, demoted and fired. Other examples are drawn from the Philippines, where criminal libel laws have been used to deter the press from exposing environmental abuses; Mexico, where the government has tried to coopt environmental activists and conceal information about environmental hazards; and Kenya, where an outspoken environmental activist has been detained, harassed and denounced as "subversive" for her opposition to destruction of a park in Nairobi.

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