Historically, the U.S. has been a beacon of hope for those seeking safety and opportunity, but our nation falls short of its potential in assuring a full complement of human rights -- civil, political, social, economic, and cultural.
Freedom from Extreme Poverty -- In the Midwest, states continue to struggle with poverty and hunger. Millions are living on less than $25 per day, many going to bed hungry. States should develop comprehensive anti-poverty policies initially targeted to those living in extreme poverty. Such efforts would ensure that state residents have the opportunity to realize an adequate standard of living.
Freedom from Discrimination -- While improvements have been madeover the past several decades, gender and racial disparities continue. Women and blacks must work more hours each week to achieve the same standard of living as their white, male counterparts. State entities designed to prevent discrimination should propose new strategies that more effectively help all workers realize wage equality.
Freedom from Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment -- The use of Supermax prisons and the death penalty are cruel, inhuman, and sometimes torturous. Each state's legislative body should identify more humane and effective incarceration and rehabilitation models.
Freedom to Realize Human Rights -- Each of the eight Midwestern states included in this report has some type of human rights monitoring body. All eight have laws that address the right to non-discrimination. But expanded laws are needed to ensure a broader base of human rights compliance. There are promising new initiatives. For example, a Wisconsin legislator has introduced right-to-housing legislation. And Illinois now has a law that promises each child access to health insurance, a further step toward ensuring a child's right to health care.
Human rights are inalienable from the freedoms upon which the U.S. was founded. The U.S. cannot realize its true potential as a human rights leader while violations are happening within our borders. Change can start now. The Midwest has the opportunity to use this report as a starting point to ensure human rights for all Midwesterners.