11. THE ROLE OF HUMAN RIGHTS IN POLITICIZING DEVELOPMENT ETHICS, DEVELOPMENT ASSISTANCE AND DEVELOPMENT PRAXIS – III

Getting From Here to There

  1. Meetings on Human Rights (e.g. the recent 26th Session of the UN’s ACC/SCN, Geneva, 12-15 April, 1999 and many other), and even the UN Secretary General’s own pronouncements, are desperately asking for ways to operationalize the new Human Rights-based paradigm.
  2. As alluded earlier, the fundamental changes needed to realize universal Human Rights are not possible without conflict with the powers-that-be (those who have excess power). Thus the call for politicizing development praxis in this new paradigm.

But because there is no progressive politics without the masses, only political mobilization –or ‘practical politics’, as it also has been called– will do; no matter how we will call it. Otherwise, we may have to wait for another ten years, for who knows what new breakthrough… [Actually, I do subscribe to the metaphor that “without genuine political mobilization, development is like a Christmas toy: Batteries not included”.

  1. We are talking here about a practical, hands-on mobilization: mobilization for self-help actions, for lobbying, for placing demands, to fight for people’s basic economic, social and political rights, to exert active resistance to social evil. Such a mobilization has to lead to empowerment where popular demands are accompanied by concrete action proposals. (10)

Human Rights in the Era of Globalization

  1. I am convinced the Left/Right, Capitalist/Socialist ideological divide is well and alive and kicking as the world’s political pendulum is desperately trying to regain its center (and maybe go beyond…to the left?) after the free market ideology has been reigning supreme. (11, 12)
  2. As under Colonialism, under Globalization we live under the rule of “Might is Right” and, under the rule of that might, Human Rights just fall between the cracks…
  3. Globalization does not have a human face, it leads to the recolonization of the whole planet. The term Globalization is a euphemism for a process of domination. Power differentials are at its crux. We cannot wish it away. [This fact reinforces the view that when economics ceases to strengthen social bonds it is time to start thinking in political terms].
  4. But as opposed to people only having their Basic Needs taken care of, people having Basic Rights makes it possible for Rights Holders to legitimately claim the same. Additionally, the Human Rights approach imposes clear obligations on Duty Bearers (e.g., signatory governments) that, by definition, must the met. (As the cliché goes, a right exists only with a concomitant duty). Such obligations include respecting, protecting and fulfilling Human Rights provisions they agreed to by becoming signatories. (13)

And that is the breaking point of the new paradigm: It strengthens our hand to act politically.

  1. In the development context, what this means is that states have the duty to improve the fair distribution of the benefits from development. And we have to hold them accountable for it.
  2. Not all forms of growth and development are Human Rights friendly. Development has to demonstrably give protection to the most vulnerable and impoverished in society to be Human Rights friendly. (7)
  3. The values we will now advocate for under the new Human Rights discourse are thus underpinned by International Human Rights Law that, in the future, needs to be incorporated into national laws –in part through our future political struggle for this, and through our action as a watchdogs of their enforcement. Our Human Rights work should, therefore, begin at home.
  4. The focus has now clearly shifted to the politico-legal links between development and Human Rights (G.B. Brundtland) keeping in mind that in the Human Rights framework, the duty to fulfill the rights –of children and women, for example– does not depend on economic justifications or excuses. (4)
  5. Moreover, the Human Rights leverage should also be forcefully applied to contingent bilateral and multilateral diplomacy as a preemptive move to prevent violent man-made disasters and their flagrant Human Rights violations.

Pleading Guilty

  1. Democracy and Human Rights are interlinked and mutually supportive. (World Conference on Human Rights)
  2. As development organizers acting as political activists we have to be willing to come into conflict with the ideology of the ruling minority any time it disregards Human Rights. For that to happen, we need to demystify the ideology of power-taken-as-being-neutral in the ruling development paradigm.
  3. But so far, our prestige as intellectuals has depended on laying claim to being ‘rational and apolitical’, in short, espousing the “ideology of the extreme center”.
  4. Moreover, there is not yet among us a felt responsibility for the creation of national and international conditions favorable to the realization of Human Rights. (7)
  5. Because of that, I think most of us stand accused for our complacency towards the status-quo and violations of Human Rights, for our lack of criticism of the overall lack of progress in development, for our political naiveté (or our choice not to get involved in the politics of it all), for our uncritical pushing forward to do something and get things done and over with, for our paternalistic and ethnocentric approach.

In short, we cannot escape taking part of the blame.

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