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President warns of dangerous mentalities, including political populism

'There is still much more to be done even in countries with economic growth'

Photo: Chris Sant Fournier

Photo: Chris Sant Fournier

Updated 2.15pm

The President warned of the growing threat of political populism, extreme nationalism and ideological fundamentalism, calling it a “serious cause for concern”.

Such mentalities were directly opposed to the principles of democracy and human rights, Marie Louise Coleiro Preca said on the occasion of the 70th Anniversary of the Declaration of Human Rights.

The President was speaking at a conference organised by her Foundation for the Wellbeing of Society and the University of Malta’s Human Rights Programme.

She urged those present to be stand up to these dangerous mentalities.

“Extreme nationalism can never be used as a justification to suppress the rights and freedom of individuals or communities, whoever they are or wherever they come from.

“Neither can economic expansion ever be used as an excuse to suspend or ignore certain rights, which safeguard the holistic dignity of people and their families.”

The President also warned that human rights had come under new pressures. A particular challenge to their universality was the pursuit of purely profit-centred strategies for social development.

“Money has replaced our values, and is destroying our human dignity,” she said.

Seventy years since the declaration, we were still facing global inequalities, poverty, precariat, attacks on human dignity, and reduced investment in social protection, Ms Coleiro Preca added.

“I believe we are also witnessing a global crisis in the practical implementation of basic social rights, perpetuating the vulnerability of many individuals and families.

“It is a cause of concern to see that even in countries where economic growth is taking place, there is still much more room to safeguard democratic values and human rights.”

Ms Coleiro Preca added that there was still a long way to go to develop inclusive democracies which ensured that every person was respected regardless of their gender, age, ethnicity, sexual orientation, faith tradition, or background.

Every time the rights of another person were violated, we are violated. This is why we could not afford to be complacent, she said, expressing hope that the 70th commemoration would act as a “wake-up call”.

The head of the University’s civil law department, David Zammit, was named winner of the inaugural Malta Human Rights Award for an essay called Vernacularizing Asylum Law in Malta.

Dr Zammit, who specialises in anthropology and the Law of Tort, and is the executive editor of the Mediterranean Journal of Human Rights, published the contribution after carrying out detailed ethnographic research into the legal and bureaucratic processing of boat people in Malta.

His essay analyses how official structures, procedures and statuses are implicated in producing and re-producing grassroots’ social perceptions of migrants as abusive recipients of humanitarian charity instead of being subjects of legal rights.

It states that integration can only occur through the informal economy and through mechanisms of incorporation which are not based on legal categories and administrative practices, “but on social relationships of friendship, patronage and hospitality”.

Instituted by the Human Rights Programme of the Faculty of Law, the award honours publications that “inspire a better understanding, diffusion or implementation of fundamental human rights and which have particular relevance to human rights scholarship in Malta”.

Eligible entries included dissertations, books and academic articles, chapters in books and essays.

Dr Zammit will be invited to deliver a public lecture at next year’s conference.

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