Respecting human rights can make a real difference and not only mitigate harmful practices.
According to the Nobel prize-winner economist Amartya Sen, development can be defined as freedom and enlargement of people's substantive choices. It can only be accomplished if people in the Third World can fully realize their civil, political, cultural and economic rights as well. Material improvements of their lives have to develop hand in hand with human rights ensuring an ending to abuse and discrimination.
A broader definition of development can be applied in the case of Tunisia, which experienced a persistent economic growth of approximately 4 % each year before 2010, resulting in 90% of children attending primary school and a life expectancy close to that of the European average.
However, higher incomes and a better provision of services could not compensate for the cost of corruption, repression and inequality in society. The aftermaths resulted in the aspiration for greater justice, freedom and dignity and demonstrations led to the President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali stepping down after 23 years in power.
Greater respect of human rights have several advantages for societies and can contribute to the success of development policy. First of all, it can facilitate to make development more just and inclusive which is one of the main pillars of sustainable development. Despite the considerable economic progress achieved by developing countries, millions of people have been left behind with marginal or no improvement in their lives.
These people often come from unprivileged groups, such as minorities, women, children, disabled people, indigenous people. The existing social structures preserve the present plight which cannot make it possible for vulnerable social groups to challenge their status or to improve their circumstances. Greater respect for human rights can lift up people from their disadvantaged status and facilitate better access to services, while acquiring land and property.
Secondly, economic modernization should not outperform the significance of human rights. For example, in Ethiopia's Lower Omo Valley, Human Right Watch has perceived that the government displaced indigenous people in order to make way for sugar plantations. This abusive development can happen due to the lack of fair treatment, consultation, legal representation and trade unions and because of the fact that unprivileged groups are not able to demonstrate their interests effectively.
Economic progress should not result in abusive practices. The responsibility of Western governments and corporations is apparent, as their activities and investment can also be harmful for local communities. Consequently, multinational companies and financial institutions have to adhere to international human rights and enhance the transparency and accountability of their operation in poor countries. It should be mandatory to report publicly on human rights and the social and environmental impacts of their work.
Aid conditionalityis the final factor which is discussed here. The withdrawal or aid in response to human rights abuses is not an effective solution to the problems, as this action punishes the poorest twice for others' failings (most of the time their governments'). Rather, the channels which are used to deliver the aids should be reconsidered.
One of the solutions can be to re-channel this assistance through NGOs and international organizations. However, delivering aid gearing to correct application of international human rights can be an effective weapon in the hands of wealthy countries.
Millions of people across the world, are struggling for better standards of living, democratic rights and for the opportunity to live a decent life where they can determine their own future. They deserve our support.
The gLAWcal team
The Wednesday, the 7th of May
(Source: The Guardian)