Today marks World Social Justice Day. Recognizing that social development and social justice are indispensable for the achievement and maintenance of peace and security within and among nations and that, in turn, social development and social justice cannot be attained in the absence of peace and security or in the absence of respect for all human rights and fundamental freedoms, the UN General Assembly declared 20 February as World Social Justice Day on 26 November 2007.
Social justice entails all aspects of fundamental rights including socio-economic rights which when respected lead to individuals and communities attaining a decent standard of self-sufficiency.
In today’s turbulent world, calls for social justice tend to be drowned out by reports on violent conflicts across the globe. This week most news items feature the failure of the Syrian delegations to agree on a permanent cease-fire, the reawakening of the violent protests in Ukraine, the ongoing massacre in the Central African Republic (CAR), the continuous deadly attacks by Boko Haram Islamists on Christians in Nigeria and the re-eruption of conflict in South Sudan. Amidst all these horrific events, which rightly deserve all the media and political attention they can get, the author nonetheless would like to ask for a moment of reflection on a series of social injustices across the globe.
The past months, there have been reports on the grim working conditions which many migrant workers face in Qatar as the nation prepares for the FIFA 2022 World Cup. This week several illegal miners, who engage in illicit and dangerous mining activities as a source of income, were rescued after being trapped in an old gold-mine in South Africa.
A recent report produced by the FXB Center for Health and Human rights, Harvard University indicates that in the hand-made carpet sector alone in India more than 3000 children are forced to engage in child labor. Humantrafficking and slavery still occurs in today’s world at a high rate.
The UN World Food Programme’s Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit reported this month that about 860,00 Somalis are in acute crisis conditions and requires humanitarian assistance over the next half year. Numerous are the local communities whose main sources of livelihood have been endangered by multinational corporations, which directly or indirectly participate in corruption and other illicit activities. Growing inequality is an issue which does not only exist in the south.
In Europe, there is a still a huge gap between the level of salaries of men and women doing the same work. Migrant workers, especially in the informal industry, continue to experience all forms of injustices andstigmatization in the communities they live in. Many pensioners who experience social isolation, having little or no social contact whatsoever.
Going back to the cited examples, beyond direct threats to their lives, the victims of conflict in Syria, the CAR and elsewhere all face grave forms of social injustice as well, including starvation, limited access to medical health etc. all as a result of the breakdown of the social order as they know it.
With today being the World Day of Social Justice, there are several recommendations which could be made to international organizations working in the field of social justice. The author however believes that a lot is to be gained from individual involvement in promoting social justice. Therefore on this day, let us all reflect on how each and every one of us can help alleviate social injustices. By being conscious of the genesis of products which we purchase for personal use and making corporations aware of the fact that products derived from child labor and other forms of slavery are rejected by consumers, one can directly influence the fate of many child laborers across the globe.
Volunteering an hour of one’s time to social justice initiatives – for example, homeless shelters and nursing homes- and going out of one’s way to promote social equality should be a personal ambition of each capable individual. Furthermore, offering financial support to organizations dedicated to eliminating social injustices is also a useful contribution to the society.
As long as greed, apathy and narcissism continue to be a part of human behavior, social injustices will persist. Nevertheless, individual contribution to the fight against social injustice is indispensable for advancing a global community living in harmony, characterized by justice, equity, peace and well-being.
Manuella Appiah is part of the Social Justice Expertise Center (SJEC) team. SJEC, a collaboration between Leiden University and The Hague Institute, is a one-stop shop for individuals, advocates, corporations, NGOs, and policymakers seeking advice and information or requiring technical assistance on matters relating to social justice. SJEC projects are designed to detect deficiencies in the international institutional framework on all aspects of social justice and to address them for relevant stakeholders.