What is human cruelty and how does it relate to human rights?
Cruelty is loosely defined as causing pain, suffering, or distress to others while human rights are the mechanisms in place to ensure cruelty does not occur. What’s considered cruel behaviour might surprise you.
- You commit the act yourself. Okay, that one was a given.
- You enjoy cruel behaviour committed by others. This means, cheering on two gladiators fighting to the death in ancient Rome would be considered human cruelty by today’s standards.
- You passively allow cruel behaviour to happen when you could do something about it—for instance, watching with indifference as a man is beaten instead of calling the police.
No matter what forms it comes in, cruelty violates the foundation of human rights.
Though the human rights movement has achieved much in the last 100 years, we still have a long way to go. We can no longer have an “out of sight, out of mind” attitude. We have the responsibility to speak out and take action against cruel behaviours that still run rampant worldwide.
The Biggest Issues & Why They Are Important
1. Abuse Over Oil, Gas, Mining & Other Natural Resources
The natural resource industries are important pillars in developing economies. However, they are oftimes breeding grounds for human cruelty. Without protection, workers can go abused, beaten, whipped, worked to death, and forced into slave labour.
Governments can confiscate land from individuals and communities for state and corporate use. These poor landowners rarely receive fair compensation. Extracting resources frequently contaminates the land, water, and air, deteriorating the people’s health, safety, and livelihoods.
Corrupt government officials continue to push agendas, while enjoying bribes and profits. Meanwhile, the local people suffer injustice without any means of help. These communities become locked into an exploitative, never-ending cycle of poverty, low quality of life, and sometimes slavery.
2. Military Weapons Investment
Militaries, rebel factions, and other violent groups use weapons to control and harm to civilians. Extreme acts include genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. Arms are sometimes financed or sold by foreign governments and companies that want to protect their interests in these conflict areas.
In December 2014, a global Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) became international law. It aims to regulate the international trade of conventional weapons to promote peace, reduce human suffering, and promote cooperation, transparency, and responsible action. It is a needed step in the right direction, but there is still much progress to be made.
Why It’s Important
Regardless of the reason, supplying arms or the means to buy arms directly contributes to the human cruelty committed in these areas. Companies guilty of this are responsible.
3. Conflict Resources
Conflict resources are natural resources extracted in a conflict or war zone and then sold to continue the fighting. Diamonds, fossil fuels, metals, timber, poppy seeds, rubber, cotton, and cocoa have all been conflict materials in different areas.
In the tech industry, for example, the 4 main conflict materials are cassiterite, Coltan, wolframite, and gold. They are used to manufacture mobile phones, laptops, MP3 players and other devices. Their exploitative extraction has disastrous effects on the people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
In 2010, the US passed the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which requires manufacturers to audit their supply chains and report on the use of conflict minerals and mine safety. As of 2016, Australia does not have a law addressing this issue.
Take Action: How to Support Human Rights When You Shop
We believe all companies have a direct responsibility to act against human cruelty in their operations. Let’s do something about it.
The easiest way to get involved is to stop supporting companies who fund, comply with, or source from human cruelty countries. Look for companies and products who are involved with the following programs and pledges:
The Conflict-free Smelter Program Audit reviews smelter/refiner management systems and sourcing practices to validate compliance with CFSP protocols and current global standards. Companies use this information to avoid sourcing conflict-free materials.
Conflict-free Materials Pledge. This is a public pledge companies can make to say, “We will not buy conflict materials.” As a consequence, they starve the abusers of the money needed to continue the cruelty.
No Investment in Military Armament Pledge. This is a public pledge companies can make to say, “We do not fund military armaments.”