Global Rights Coalition Urges US to Change Course at UN Summit


In an Open Letter to US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, the Habitat International Coalition (HIC) urged the US to stop undermining UN Secretary General Kofi Annan’s Statement before the Millennium Development Goal Summit, fund poverty reduction at home and abroad, and honour its treaty obligations to aid the poor. Rice arrives in New York this weekend to prepare for the September 14-16 Summit meetings at the UN.

In August, US Ambassador to the UN John Bolton proposed more than 500 last-minute amendments to the Draft Outcome Statement for the MDG Summit prepared over the past several months by Annan and other world leaders. Speaking for the US, Bolton demanded the UND drop any reference to Millennium Development Goals, global warming or nuclear disarmament in the final document, concentrating instead on US strategies for global security.

Commenting that the “moral myopia revealed by these positions is utterly breathtaking,” President Enrique Ortiz and General Secretary Ana Sugranyes wrote in behalf of HIC: “The whole world has watched as wealthier residents escaped while predominantly poor and Black residents… were abandoned to preventable suffering and death.” HIC charges that the US government’s “inaction, incompetence and disregard for human life” in the Katrina catastrophe violates US treaty obligations detailed in the letter. HIC’s Letter urges a reversal of Bush Administration policies that have caused a “silent hurricane of destruction” of housing for the poor, with 3.5 million US families homeless even before Katrina.

HIC also notes that the National Guard troops and equipment which could have been available for disaster relief in the Gulf coast had instead diverted to the war in Iraq. “We urge you to end at once this occupation and provide instead for the security of your own people,” HIC wrote. “Katrina has washed away forever the illusion that the war in Iraq has made your citizens more secure.”

HIC also charges that Bush Administration policies have directly contributed to global warming, including water temperature increases in the Caribbean which have increased the destructiveness of hurricanes like Katrina. “If there were any doubts aobut the irresponsibility of the Administrations policies and its stubborn denial that global warming exists, they were blown away by Hurricane Katrina,” the letter charges.

HIC is the leading global network of more than 400 social movements, research centers, advocacy groups and nongovernmental organizations working for housing and land rights. The letter was adopted September 9 by HICs General Assembly, consisting of organizations from 36 countries on five continents meeting in Cairo, Egypt.