409 THE NEXT FIFTEEN YEARS DEVELOPMENT OUTLOOK: IS THE BALANCE ALREADY IRREVERSIBLY SKEWED IN FAVOR OF PRIVATE INTERESTS AND AGAINST HUMAN RIGHTS?

-We are, more and more, seeing a process of outsourcing the international development agenda.
– The narrative of ‘progress’ is no longer sustainable. (Steven Smith)

Innovation is not a prerogative of the private sector

-Big business does not play a ‘critical role’, and calling on it to engage as partners in the development process is not called for.
-What track record do businesses really have in being part of the solution where that is not a mandated and enforced requirement? What is the incentive for TNCs to exert their enormous power and influence in any way beyond maintaining the status-quo which has delivered so many benefits to them?

1. The current trade and investment regime is dominated by already wealthy countries and corporations. And who benefits from this? Perhaps the gargantuan pharmaceutical industry intent on protecting their profits? or, Governments that now are increasingly elected on the back of private election finance? Does all this imply that the incentive structure only operates in one direction? Is there an assumption that we should have less confidence in the aptitude of the public sector, so therefore it must do more to operate on business terms –even when those terms are the same that have led to the current highly inequitable, unsustainable patterns of development?

2. Since public and private incentives are currently so poorly aligned, it is hard to imagine how public entities, as the main duty bearers, operating more-and-more along private lines will keep up with their primary public responsibilities especially as relates to protecting sustainability, inclusiveness and human rights (HR)*. So, why should projects vital to human and environmental well-being happen with a business-take on these issues? Encouraged by years of deregulation, many businesses think of themselves as existing outside a binding social contract –or as able to select the parts useful to them such as through deliberate strategies to reduce tax bills or to underpay workers who then have to rely on social protection schemes paid for by taxation.
*: There are more least developed countries (LDCs) now than in 1986. Even among middle-income countries, few are on paths that can ensure sustained, sustainable and equitable growth and poverty eradication. (The South Center)

3. As a privileged group, big business is able to set their own norms, mostly related to their own survival and profitability –expecting the public sector not to stand in their way. Large TNCs have pushed this approach so far that a growing number of governments at the United Nations have called for a legally binding framework to regulate big business so as to provide appropriate protection, justice and remedy to victims of HR abuses. In this call, any upcoming social contract with gaping exemptions or exclusions is unacceptable and is bound to collapse. The question is: Will businesses agree that such a contract will be binding, not optional? The UN will have to insist that it will have to be upheld and enforced, and there can be no picking and choosing –no exceptions.** (B. Adams and G. Luchsinger)
**: The UN (and other development) agencies have, for decades, pityfully little to show in the implementation of actual actionable deliverables in the realm of the HR-based framework to development. It is evident that the drive of their interventions purportedly aimed at fulfilling HR principles and standards comes not from claim holders’ claims, but rather from how the interventions work to not make too radical changes in the prevailing unfair economic and political system. This means that efforts directed at government policy can have only limited effectiveness if they are aimed at changing relatively weak leverage points in the prevailing unfair system. (G. Carey)

There is no such a thing as a developed and underdeveloped world; there is only a single, badly developed or maldeveloped world (CETIM)

Some like to call the current development model ‘an evidence-free zone’. (Steven Nissen)

4. Beware: The experts will come! Not soldiers; now it is ‘experts’. Note that, sometimes, experts are even more dangerous than soldiers. They say: “You cannot. The market will be irritated. The market will be angry”. It is as if the market is an unknown, but very active and cruel God punishing us, because we are trying to commit the cardinal sin of changing reality. I ask: Is recovering dignity a cardinal sin? (E. Galeano)

Grim or bright outlook?

5. Even if it has been more than twenty years since their re-emergence on the international agenda, economic, social and cultural rights still remain a rhetorical aspiration. …or is it that there have been real advances in how they are enjoyed, claimed and enforced? This is indeed a pressing question. In a way, the affirmation by member states in the 1992 Vienna Human Rights Declaration that HR and development should be seen as ‘mutually reinforcing’ still has a hollow rhetorical ring twenty five years on. (Alicia Yamin)

6. Yes, progress has been made on each front, particularly in the realm of normative development (the Right to Development an example), in the realm of legal protection and of judicial enforcement. Human rights are beginning to play a more prominent role in how we think, and how we act. But the economic and social rights of millions of people across the globe are still under systematic and renewed attacks as a result of a number of current pervasive development trends. These include the imposition of regressive fiscal austerity measures and other policies fuelling economic inequality, the failure to take effective action against climate change, as well as the consolidated grip that unbridled corporate power now has on both national and international governance. (CESR) On the other hand, one of the most important innovations in HR practice has been the increasing attention to economic policies such as the scrutiny of budgets, taxation, and social security systems. (S. Fukuda-Parr)

Claudio Schuftan, Ho Chi Minh City
schuftan@gmail.com

Postscript/Marginalia
-As he observed world development going from bad to worse, Marcel Proust used to talk about the intermittences of the heart.
-Immanuel Kant was of the opinion that whoever wills the end, wills also (so far as reason decides his conduct) the means in his power which are indispensably necessary thereto. Does this really mean to will the end is to will the means? It would not seem so to me.
– ‘In dreaming begins responsibility.’ (W.B. Yeats)
– We are simply ignoring the folk wisdom that says: ‘If we do not change direction, we are going to get where we are going.’ This is equivalent to Yogi Berra’s (2002): ‘When you come to a fork in the road, take it.’
– Peace, more than any other word, represents the essence of our work in HR. (A. Fazal)

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