For the millions of men, women and children living in the least developed countries (LDCs) across the globe, development stands among the most urgent of human rights imperative. Development is human rights for all individual and peoples and economic growth alone will not deliver the immense need of the LDCs especially encountering humanitarian catastrophe. Neither development nor human rights are charities, rather they form an important part of international cooperation.
The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and human rights have ultimately a common objective and these are to preserve and protect human dignity through the achievement of a wide range of civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights. There are wide-ranging and deep linkages between human rights and the MDGs. MDGs and human rights are also both underpinned by an international framework. There are periodic reporting processes for each at both national and international level. The international and national framework for human rights is more elaborate and each major international and regional human rights instrument has an expert committee, commission or court which monitors its effective realization. At the same time, the political commitment behind the MDGs has helped focus greater political attention on poverty concerns and has arguably delivered real benefits to poor people mainly in LDCs.
While there are many different contributors to poverty, injustice and discrimination are omnipresent and always constitute a denial of human rights. It is for this reason that there are extensive direct linkages between human rights provisions and the MDGs. For each goal there are often corresponding human rights obligations, standards or norms. Beyond the direct links, there are significant complementarities between the MDGs and human rights obligations. First, human rights can lend legal authority to the MDGs. In turn, as political commitments made at the highest level, the MDGs provide a high-profile political process through which human rights can be progressively realized. Moreover, the political commitments encompassed by the MDGs and the legal obligations resulting from human rights treaties both provide tools for holding governments to account.
Human rights, however, have not yet played a significant role in supporting and influencing MDG-related activities in the LDCs. The MDGs have been pursued largely in isolation from the human rights commitments in the original Millennium Declaration. Some voices have criticized the MDGs themselves, questioning whether human rights standards have been lowered and sufficient attention has been paid to women and marginalized groups and national and global power inequities. At the same time, just like development benefits, the realization of human rights remains out of reach for the poor and excluded people. The harsh reality is that in spite of the best human rights norms and laws, mass poverty and deprivation continue to plague many LDCs. The challenge is, therefore, to ensure that the normative power of human rights and the practical and political traction of the MDGs are brought together, and for diverse groups to work in concert to ensure that governments meet their commitments and obligations. In this way, it is possible to work toward our common goals of human dignity and LDCs free of poverty and injustice.
The international community has an obligation to development cooperation with LDCs in order to achieve MDG targets by 2015. Such development cooperation includes cooperation in areas of financial flows, debt restructuring, technology transfer, foreign aid and transfer of resources. Development compact is a method to match the duties of nation states with those of the international community. The concept of a development compact is based on the notion of reciprocal commitments to meet the obligations of both the nation state and the international community to realize the right to development.
A CLARION CALL IN ISTANBUL
During the recently concluded UN LDC IV Conference in Istanbul, the collective voice of the civil society that the right to development means the realization of economic, social and cultural and civil and political rights was echoed. Voices were raised to strive for harmonizing policies for realizing individual rights with a program for economic growth, respecting rights with gender justice. The civil society representatives are advocating that there is a clear linkage between financing for development and the right to development.
During the recently concluded UN LDC IV Conference in Istanbul, the collective voice of the civil society that the right to development means the realization of economic, social and cultural and civil and political rights was echoed.
While there are many different contributors to poverty, injustice and discrimination are omnipresent and always constitute a denial of human rights. Interdependence between financing for development and the effective realization of the right to development in conjunction with direct linkages, complementarities and obligations between human rights and the MDGs needs renewed understanding. The prospects for re-building society (both in terms of infrastructure and individual/collective healing) in the post-conflict situation are highly essential. The connectivity between MDGs and post-conflict reconstruction jointly provide a high-profile political process through which human rights and humanitarian agenda can be progressively realized. Moreover, the political commitments encompassed by the human rights instruments (and or peace agreements) in combination with MDGs and legal obligations resulting from international human rights treaties both provide effective tools for holding governments to account.
Since the attainment of MDGs is a daunting challenge in most of the LDCs, external actors can play a valuable role – recognizing and supporting the steps taken by the LDC governments toward a new social compact, helping with system development, and providing long- term and stable aid resources.
The increased aid promised, but not yet delivered, for the MDGs, will have to be absorbed in a useful way. A commitment by donors to provide aid on a longer term and more predictable basis would be helpful for social protection. Unfortunately, in the absence of reliable financing, governments are reluctant to take on major new spending commitments for fear that the resources needed to sustain them may not arrive – as is often the case. It is crucial to strengthen country systems (e g for social assistance), to ensure that additional aid can be absorbed and used. The countries in transition after painfully protracted civil war or other forms of internal strife such as Nepal deserve a long-term and convincing commitment for external support to rebuild the war-torn society in its recuperation effort.
Peace and security are considered fundamental for development. The argument is for a set of goals that complement the MDGs, reflecting the Millennium Declaration commitments on action against international terrorism, organized crime and traffic in small arms and light weapons. What is required now is a new bridge between humanitarian and development actors. Most humanitarian work is in situations requiring support over long periods of time, rather than short emergencies. This could be recognized explicitly, and medium-term humanitarian-and-development plans are needed in a growing number of LDCs. There is a need to charter a time-bound recovery plan in such countries. The LDCs facing humanitarian crisis do not deserve to be left alone in the current global financial crisis.
The fragile states, countries facing humanitarian disaster or the countries in delicate transition such as Nepal, business as usual will definitely not bring any desired changes. Greater political stability, rule of law and social justice and public participation with informed choice are keys to move forward toward fixing the inadequacies. A commitment to human rights-based approach and to mutually beneficial and effective international cooperation as well as solidarity between states is indispensible for an enabling environment to attain the MDGs in LDCs. Reform for more inclusive and democratic global economic governance would serve a great factor in creating a conducive environment toward ensuring right to development in LDCs.
The clarion call in Istanbul was clear. This time as before, LDCs were not queuing-up with a bigger begging bowl. They were there with a legitimate demand of burden sharing approach by the international community. The demand was for the formal expression of political will on the part of the developed nations to deliver with open mind and conscience for the benefit of common humanity. The LDCs are not short of strategic resources—petrol, metal, minerals, crops, arable land and a giant young workforce. The deficiency is the capacity to flourish. Thus, the demand is for renewed global partnership and conscious accountability of the demand side, both in the form of commodities, trade or international labor migration that enriches the human capital base of the developed nations. Business as usual means it would be even difficult to protect the gains already made, let alone attaining the MDGs in four years to come. Time is ripe to save the LDCs from the potential danger of taking “U” turn!