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HOPE2005
International Conference on Alcohol/Drug Abuse, HIV/AIDS,
Environment, Population and Human Rights
 
Messages
 
 

Dr. Yusuf Merchant, President of Hope 2005 and DAIRRC

 
 
Keynote address by Dr. Yusuf Merchant, delivered on 3rd November 2005, at the plenary inaugural session, of the Hope 2005 International Conference on Alcohol/Drug Abuse, HIV/AIDS, Environment, Population and Human Rights.
 
Distinguished guests, fellow crusaders and friends,

I am overwhelmed with gratitude and respect, for all of you gathered here, to address the 5 main issues that threaten the survival of our planet.

I also take this opportunity to thank our main sponsor Indian Oil Corporation, and our co-sponsors New India Assurance and Mumbai Districts AIDS Control Society, for the gracious support that they have extended to this conference.

This is a unique moment and an exclusive consortium, one which perhaps may never be repeated, when professionals from 5 different spheres of expertise, have gathered under one roof, to profess their joint concern and need for a holistic solution to some of the world’s most serious problems.

The reverberations of the destruction caused in recent times by the tsunamis, hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the floods and the earthquakes abroad and in India, have affected the turnout of this conference, as quite a few of our delegates have had to cancel their plans, in order to attend to more serious issues at home. We extend our prayers and sympathies to them, as well as those among you who have been affected by these disasters.

Hope to the power of 2005, has been conceptualized as a fervent call, for the alleviation of human misery on a global scale.

We have visualized a concept of our Mother earth, as a living organism …..

One could say without any hesitation whatsoever, that we have exploited this uncomplaining and ever giving mother, and reduced her to the state of a diseased being,

Environment forms the lungs of this organism
Population are its limbs
Human Rights encompasses the soul

AIDS and Addictions are just two of the symptoms that serve to indicate that all endeavors that are anti-nature, will always lead to disastrous consequences.

Let me explain our stand ……

As all of you have read in your invitations, to the conference, we have stated that ever since humankind has misused its creative ability, and tried to tamper with natural perfection, it has only succeeded in disturbing the extremely fragile balance of nature, and this has led to the creation of a host of human made miseries/diseases.

Global warming, Population explosion, over utilization of natural resources, HIV and Substance Abuse are all the consequences of human endeavors to tamper with natural perfection. As if interfering with nature was not enough, we then began using our power and our sick minds to dominate one another, discriminate and infringe on basic human rights.

Isn’t it ironic that human rights violations are termed ‘animal/beastly behavior’ and yet there has never ever been a case of human rights violations by an animal! In fact humans could learn a lesson or two about peaceful and harmonious coexistence from the animal kingdom itself!

Let me reiterate the facts that call for attention.
 
Environment:
 
- Thousands of the world's species of flora and fauna, are extinct, today, or face extinction. Every day, scores of species of plants and animals become extinct as their habitats are destroyed by humans.
- More than 20 percent of all freshwater fish species are now threatened or endangered because dams and water withdrawals have destroyed the free-flowing river ecosystems where they thrive.
- Fishing fleets are 40 percent larger than the ocean can sustain
- Global warming is reaching dangerous levels
- Plastic wastes continue to stack up in landfills
- Ozone levels have reached far beyond acceptable limits
- Over 65,000 square miles of rainforests are being destroyed each year
- Approximately 4 billion tons of carbon accumulates in the air each year, with almost 30% of this coming directly from the continued burning of the rainforests
- Over half of the world’s tropical forests have been lost, through logging and conversion
- Soil degradation has affected two-thirds of the world’s agricultural lands in the last 50 years
- The human race is now so numerous and its technological power so great that we are having an unprecedented impact on the biosphere, the entire planet.
- During the past hundred years, the natural environment has borne the stresses imposed by a fourfold increase in human numbers and an eighteenfold growth in world economic output.
 
Population:
 
- 50 years ago, there were 2.5 billion people on earth. Today there are around 7 billion, with 85 million being added every year.
- Increase in population leads to increase in needs and increase in consumption. The earth’s resources are not increasing however
- In today’s world, almost every problem is being caused, or can be related to the population explosion
- The population explosion has led to environmental forcing
- The surging populations throughout the developing world are intensifying the pressures on limited water supplies.
- There is an irreversible decreases in the abundance of habitats and degradation of their ecological function
- There has been overexploitation of the earth’s resources
- The amount of CO2 emissions worldwide continues to rise, at an alarming rate
- Despite our progress, half of the world’s population still suffers from lack of adequate water services
- More than one billion people lack access to clean drinking water; some two and a half billion do not have adequate sanitation services.
- Globally the number of older persons (60 years or over) will more than triple, increasing from 606 million today to nearly 2 billion by 2050.
- One can expect that by the middle of the next century about 10 billion people will be placing stresses on the natural resource base of the globe. These stresses are sure to lead to further environmental problems.

Human Rights:
 
- The gap between the human rights’ vision of an equal and just world and the actual state of inequality in the ‘global village’ is creating feelings of humiliation that are intensely wounding.
- The world’s poor are facing a worsening life-situation at the same time as they are learning that such a situation ‘ought not’ to prevail.
- Today, we have a long list of sources of discrimination which have become socially illegitimate: class, race, ethnicity, indigenicity, gender, age, sexuality, disabilities. And this list is constantly being augmented.
- No country can claim a perfect human rights record.
- In 2000, there were 39 percent of the world's population people living in Free societies, 26 percent living in Partly Free societies and 35 percent living in Not Free societies.
- There continues to be a serious gap between words and actions in the field of human rights.
- There is religious repression and discrimination in every region of the world.
- Violence against women remained a pervasive problem, cutting across social and economic lines. Domestic and sexual violence against women is found on every continent.
- Around the world, children face dangerous and unhealthy conditions, working in factories, fields, and sweatshops, as domestic servants, or, in some cases, as prostitutes. The trafficking of children for forced labor, prostitution, and pornography is a growing and lucrative business for criminals. In many cities large numbers of street children lack shelter, food, education, and support and are vulnerable to many forms of abuse
- The rapidly growing global problem of human trafficking, affects countries and families on every continent. Traffickers prey upon women, children, and men from all walks of life, and of every age, religion, and culture.
- There are widespread violations of laws relating to surveillance of communications, even in the most democratic of countries
 
HIV/AIDS:
 
- According to estimates from the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and the World Health Organization (WHO), 38.6 million adults and 3.2 million children were living with HIV at the end of 2002.
- During 2002, some 5 million people became infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which causes AIDS. The year also saw 3.1 million deaths from HIV/AIDS.
- With the HIV-positive population still expanding the annual number of AIDS deaths can be expected to increase for many years
- Around half of all people who acquire HIV become infected before they turn 25 and typically die of the life-threatening illnesses called "AIDS" before their 35th birthday. This age factor makes AIDS uniquely threatening to children
- In 2002, an estimated 800,000 children aged 14 or younger became infected with HIV.
- The overwhelming majority of people with HIV, some 95% of the global total, live in the developing world. That proportion is set to grow even further as infection rates continue to rise in countries where poverty, poor health systems and limited resources for prevention and care fuel the spread of the virus.
- Around 5% - 10% of all HIV world-wide is drug-related, that’s 2-4 million extra AIDS deaths as a direct result, plus extending networks of sexual partners of drug injectors at risk, as well as babies in the womb.
- HIV/AIDS affects millions of people every year whose lives depend on the productive capabilities, and earnings of its victims.
 
Substance Abuse:
 
- International drug trade is a $500 billion mega-industry.
- Drug taking used to be confined to small groups but is now a global obsession, almost beyond control in many countries.
- UNDCP estimates that around 6% of the world’s adults use illegal drugs in a year.
- Globalisation is making flow of drugs easier, with non-existent border checks and unrestricted money flows between many nations.
- Armed conflicts around the world are also powering the drugs trade as arms are often traded direct for drugs.
- Drug use by teenagers has rocketed by 70% since 1992
- Alcohol abuse is also a major teenage problem - often copied from parents.
- Drug-related accidents and lost productivity costs around $100 billion a year.
- Drug addiction affects millions of people every year whose lives depend on the skills and judgement of others.
 
Over the next 3 days, we shall have the privilege of experiencing some distinguished speakers in all these 5 disciplines, and we hope that the deliberations of this conference will serve to make a difference in our lives as also the lives of our successive generations.

We have taken the first step. We pray that many will walk and continue in our path!


With love, prayers and warm regards,


Dr. Yusuf Merchant
President
Hope 2005 and DAIRRC
Consultants to the United Nations
Economic and Social Council
 
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