World Day of Social Justice: The People’s Revolution is On the March
The United Nations General Assembly, on the initiative of Nurbch Jeenbrev, the Ambassador of Kyrgyzstan to the U.N. in New York, has proclaimed 20 February as the “World Day of Social Justice” .The World Day of Social Justice gives us an opportunity to take stock of how we can work together at the local, national and global level on policy and action to achieve the goals set out in the resolution of “solidarity, harmony and equality within and among states.”
As the resolution states “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 Preamble to the UN Charter makes social justice one of the chief aims of the organization using the more common expression of that time “social progress”. The Preamble calls for efforts to “promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom.”
The US representatives who worked on the draft of the UN Charter were strongly influenced in their views of social progress by the “New Deal” legislation of President Roosevelt and its philosophy as it had been set out by his Vice-President Henry A. Wallace in 1942 when he set out the US war aims. Wallace’s speech was the first time that the war aims of a country were not stated in terms of “national interest” and limited to the demands that had produced the start of the war. Wallace, who had first been the Secretary of Agriculture and who had to deal with the severe depression facing US agriculture, was proposing a world-wide New Deal based on the cooperative action of all of humanity. Wallace said “The people’s revolution is on the march. When the freedom-loving people march — when the farmers have an opportunity to buy land at reasonable prices and to see the produce of their land through their own organizations, when workers have the opportunity to form unions and bargain through them collectively, and when the children of all the people have an opportunity to attend schools which teach them truths of the real world in which they live — when these opportunities are open to everyone, then the world moves straight ahead…The people are on the march toward ever fuller freedom, toward manifesting here on earth the dignity that is in every human soul.”
The People’s Revolution found its expression in the cry of the Tunisian uprising — Liberty-Work-Dignity. Today in the demands of “Liberty-Work-Dignity” we hear the demands of farmers to own land under sure conditions, to receive a fair price for their crops as well as the right to organize to protect their interests. We hear the crises of industrial and urban workers to be able to organize and to have their work appreciated for its full value. We hear the demands of students and the young for an education that opens minds and prepares for meaningful work.
The people’s revolution is on the march. While the forces of the status quo are still strong and often heavily armed, the energy has shifted from the rulers to the people. The concept of Social Justice has articulated and focused deep demands for liberty, jobs, and dignity.
Some have been surprised – even alarmed – that the people’s revolution in Tunisia and Egypt did not have recognized leaders or an organized political party structure. But the people’s revolution is not that of an elite willing to replace the existing ruling elite. The people’s revolution is a wave of all moving together, with deep currents below the surface. The tide moves with only a few visible waves but the aspirations are collective. No doubt, there will be individualized leadership, and demands will be formulated into political-party platforms, but the collective demands for social justice and dignity is what makes the difference between the people’s revolution and a military coup. This is the true meaning of the World Day of Social Justice.
*Rene Wadlow, President and representative to the United Nations, Geneva, Association of World Citizens