BLOGGERKatherine Marshall is a Senior Fellow at the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs, where she leads the Center's program on Religion and Global Development. After a long career in...
Faith in Action tracks the activities of people of faith across the globe and across religious traditions, with a focus on development issues. Posts are originally published by the Huffington Post. Older blog posts appeared on the Washington Post's Georgetown/On Faith site.
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AT THE CENTER
RELATED RESOURCES ON EDUCATION
Meetings Commemorating the 20th Anniversary of the Declaration on the Right to Development; Geneva, Switzerland, and in Cairo, Egypt: Back to Office Report
December 17, 2006
In accordance with the TORs dated Oct. 27, 2006, I participated on behalf of the Bank, as a panelist and speaker at two events in Geneva commemorating the 20th Anniversary of the Declaration on the Right to Development (RTD). Both events were co-sponsored by the Frederich Ebert Foundation and the UN. The first was held as a parallel event to the third session of the UN Human Rights Council and included participants from country delegations and NGOs accredited to the Council (some 70 participants). The second was a closed experts meeting bringing together a number of speakers and senior representatives from several donor agencies, both bilateral and multilateral.
On Dec. 2-3, at the invitation of the Egyptian National Human Rights Commission, I attended a 20th anniversary commemorative event on the same subject. It was co-chaired by Dr. Boutros Boutros Ghali, the ex Secretary General of the UN and the current chairman of the Commission, and Dr. Ibrahim Salama the Egyptian Ambassador to Portugal and current chair of the UN Task Force on the RTD, on which I have in the past represented the Bank. Attendance included Ahmed Mehr, Egypt's ex-Foreign Minister, as well as Dr. Ahmed Darweesh, current Minister of Administrative Development, as well as the current Minister of Trade and Development.
Senior officials also attended from the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, from the province of Upper Egypt and from a number of NGOs prominent in the field of human rights. Some 140 people participated openly and actively. Panelists, including yours truly, were invited to meet and brief the current Minister for Foreign Affairs who spoke of the need to delicately balance, in Egypt, the deeply felt demand for greater political and civil rights for the individual and the need for more effective provision of economic, social and cultural rights, against the human rights views of religious fundamentalists who stress the necessity of collective rights not necessarily defined by internationally agreed-to conventions.
All three meetings were useful for the Bank because they revealed that despite the remarkable progress being made to date in many parts of the world, often with the help of the Bank, our instruments are deficient in effectively reaching the poorest and the most marginalized in many of our partner countries. The discussions shed light on how human rights can be used to help the Bank and other donors assist in meeting the needs of the poorest and most vulnerable. This was particularly the case in the Cairo meeting. In my own remarks to that meeting I sought to be specific in describing where the Bank is today as an institution in its application of human rights as a development instrument, and where we are falling short . I believe that this was much appreciated both by the Egyptian authorities and by the members of civil society present at the meeting.
Geneva Meetings :
The Geneva meetings focused primarily on how the concept of the right to development has evolved since the 1986 Declaration and the 1993 Vienna declaration and how the several donors represented have endeavored to interpret the RTD and introduce it into their assistance strategies and support programs. This discussion took place following formal presentations by yours truly for the Bank (attached), by a representative of the UN High Commmissioner, and by the UNDP. The major conclusions from the meetings were as follows;
(i) despite the high levels of economic growth and the reduction globally in the numbers of absolute poor, income gaps have been widening globally (including in India and China), and the number of people living in extreme poverty has been increasing in most of sub-Saharan Africa, parts of latin American and south Asia;
(ii) as a result, it is unlikely that the MDG targets will be met in 2015 ; indeed it was recognized that as aggregated interim targets, the MDGs, even if achieved by 2015, would not necessarily address the plight of the poorest and most marginalized;
(iii) despite improvements in governance, increased attention to corruption, and greater knowledge on how to sustain economic growth within economies, our existing development instruments are falling short in dealing with the poor and most marginalized, and there is need to identify new instruments which would enable governments and donors to more effectively address the needs of those living in extreme poverty;
(iv) although it is unlikely that the 1986 Declaration on the Right to Development and the 1993 Vienna Declaration will soon be reflected in a binding treaty or convention, there was a consensus that if the principles underlying the Declarations were applied systematically by both states and by the donor communities in their analytical work, strategy formulation processes, and national development strategies and business plans, development results would be substantially improved, the MDGs met, and the number of poor significantly reduced;
(v) it was agreed that every effort should be made to convince partner states (as legally bound "duty bearers") and donor agencies (as "developmentally bound duty bearers") to systematically apply the following five principles to the formulation and delivery of their development strategies and programs; participation especially by the poorest and most marginalized; transparency so that decision making processes are seen as fair and honest; accountability mechanisms so that populations, including the poorest, can hold states and donors accountable; non-discrimination to identify and address the needs of the poor and marginalized who might be members of distinct ethnic, religious, regional or other minorities; and equity so as to ensure that all members of society and all states are given equal opportunities within their communities;
(vi) it was agreed that in addition to having donors more readily reminding states (without new forms of conditionality) of their legal obligations under any of the seven "core human rights conventions" they might have ratified, coordination and the accountability of different states applying these principles would hopefully be done through the Human Rights Council Universal Peer Review (UPR) mechanism currently under preparation. Short of convincing donor governing bodies of the significance of a rights based approach to development (which may yet take some time), strengthening donor coordination and accountability could be initiated through the application and further refinement of the questionaire designed by the High Level Task Force on the RTD intended to assess the extent to which donor partnerships (MDG 8) are taking the RTD principles into account;
(vii) it was agreed that enhanced support from donors for legal reform would strengthen the capacity of national courts to enforce the provision of certain human rights, especially for the poorest who generally have little access to legal services;
(viii) in addition to the acknowledgement that an explicit focus on the principles underlying the RTD has shifted the focus from development outputs alone (as it tended to be 20 years ago when the Declaration was formulated) to the development process , there was also an acknowledgement that this shift, to be effective, would require a change in the balance of power relationships, both between the rich and the poor at the national level, and between rich and poor states at the international level (especially, though not exclusively, in the trade area) and this shift would not be easy;
(ix) there was broad concensus that staff both in most national governments and administrations as well as in the donor agencies are not knowledgable as to the development potential of human rights and a rights-based approach (RBA) to development. It was agreed that there needs to be a concerted effort to educate development professionals as to its potential as a development tool, both through wide distribution of empirical research demonstrating its utility, and through training, and that unless this is done its value added will prove limited.
The presentations by the various donors as to the extent to which they apply the principles underlying the RTD and human rights more generally, revealed the following;
(i) GTZ in 2004 developed an Action Plan on human rights with explicit reference to the Declaration on the RTD and its underlying principles. They currently seek to align all their country assistance programs with this Action Plan. They systematically examine the human rights implications of the projects they support and have selected Kenya and Guatemala as pilot countries for applying comprehensively a "rights based approach to development" targetting the poorest and most vulnerable groups. Substantive importance is being given to primary education, especially for girls (easy because of government HR Treaty obligations), primary health care, clean water for the poorest, and private sector development for the poorest;
(ii) Norway (NORAD) is even more rigorous, in that the extent to which a developing country applies an RBA approach determines whether and to what extent Norway is prepared to assist them. Norway provides considerable budget support and thereby seeks to ensure that legislative bodies are involved and strengthened since they normally need to approve government budgets. Norway also provides about 25% of its financial support directly to civil society organisations and does take account of alleged political or civil rights violations in its decisions to assist a government. Their substantive focus is on support for reproductive health, hunger alleviation (including social protection and justice), sustainable globalisation, migration, and post conflict and sustainable peace;
(iii) Canadian CIDA is currently undergoing adjustments in management and policy direction as a result of a recent change in government. Though not explicitly applying an RBA approach to its assistance, it does support the provision of services which are considered human rights (the "fig leaf approach"). They are considering taking an RBA approach in Egypt as a pilot. There is also a recognition that perhaps human rights considerations should first be applied in the context of trade reform where currently no such consideration exists;
(iv) UNDP' s support for development as a right is implicit in its focus on "human development", through which it seeks to view all its assistance, including its support for trade reform;
(v) OXFAM's primary vehicle for supporting the RTD is through its focus on trade reform.
Cairo Meeting :
Prior to the meeting I met with Jamal Al Kibbi, the Bank's acting Country Director for Egypt, and briefed him on the growing attention being given to human rights in the Bank and the development community more generally, and its potential as a tool for development and addressing the needs of the poorest and most marginalized. I also provided him with a copy of the recent Development Outreach on human rights and development published by the Bank. Neither he nor anyone else in the Cairo office had received copies. I brought some 30 copies which were distributed to key particpants and members of the government by Dr. Salama, the co-chair. I also presented personally copies to Boutros Ghali and ex-Foreign Minister Mehr. Although Jamal Al Kibbi was aware of the conference sponsored by the Egyptian National Human Rights Commission and had received an invitation to attend, he did not see human rights as something to which the development ministries of the Egyptian government were giving much attention. He did express interest, however, in learning himself, and having staff in the office learn more about how the Bank could use human rights as a development tool. He indicated that the current country director, Emmanuel Mbi, presently on sick leave, was also interested.
Despite the reputation of Egypt as a somewhat repressive society apparently violating frequently the political, civil and developmental rights of its citizens, the foreign experts present at the meeting were pleasantly surprised at the openess and critical nature of the discussion which took place, including criticisms coming from senior government officials. The opening remarks by Boutros Ghali set the stage by highlighting the disagreements around the RTD as the latest in several generations of rights, with the south seeking the achievement of collective economic and social rights, and some in the west (especially with USAIDs new emphasis on "freedom and democracy" at the expense of its support for so-called development rights) preoccupied with the importance of developing states providing the political and civil rights of the individual.
At the same time, while the evidence is not all in, he did acknowledge that recent research suggests that if economic and social development are to be sustained in the long run, political and civil rights need to be provided at the same time. Without them, states are neither accountable nor necessarily transparent in the formulation and delivery of their development programs. The importance of political and civil rights for sustaining economic and social development was also stressed by Dr. Muhamed H.S. Al Turaiki, President of the Middle East Research Center for Human Development and Rights based in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. He expressed to me strong interest in meeting with Jamal Al Kibbi, the Bank's newly appointed Country Manager in Saudi Arabia since he sees the Bank as a potentially important ally in promoting human rights as a development tool for the region as a whole.
The Minister of Administrative Development, Dr. Ahmed Darweesh was even more explicit by stressing the critical importance of good governance and the five principles underlying the RTD in achieving good governance. He stated that Egypt still has some way to go in doing so but is moving in that direction at a pace and in a manner commensurate with its political and resource constraints and realities.
Many amongst the civil society representatives were not quite so charitable in assessing the government's commitment to an RBA approach to development with representatives of health NGOs citing the poor state of health facilities, especially in rural and remote areas, and regionally in Upper Egypt. It was stated that not one senior Minister in the current government is from Upper Egypt. There was also concern expressed by a number of medical physicians as to the disproportionate amounts being spent per capita on health versus defense, and the veracity of government health statistics which most often "reflect slogans rather than on-the-ground realities".
Nepotism in senior appointments was also cited as a serious obstacle to development as was the corrupt management of budget resources. The fact that government has been weakening the legislation governing the creation and operations of civil society organisations in the country, thereby weakening the potential for greater accountability, was a development which some thought the World Bank should be more strongly seeking to counter. The poor quality of education (versus quantity) was frequently cited as leading to human rights violations for the poor as was the disproportionate spending between higher education and primary and secondary schooling.
In response, government officials acknowledged the plight of Upper Egypt and the apparent lack of attention it is getting from government, though partially blamed donors increasingly concerned with political and civil rights at the expense of economic, social and cultural rights. The Bank was criticised for supporting a program which did not appear to be helping the poorest and most marginalized deal with the negative consequences of globalisation. Though acknowledging the inevitability of globalisation in Egypt and throughout the region, many felt institutions like the Bank should be doing more to clearly identify and listen more closely to the needs of the poorest and most vulnerable, focussing more on generating decent jobs through support for the private sector amongst the poor (micro credits especially in rural areas), and through a more transparent privatisation process subject to stronger regulatory processes.
One of the conclusions of the two day meeting, to some extent based on my own presentation (attached), was that the Egyptian authorities and the Bank, should be more systematically applying the five principles underlying the RTD in their analytical work (poverty profiles, PSIAs done ex-ante, CGAs,and PRSPs) as well as in their strategies and programs, and that if the Egyptian government is truly interested in using a rights-based approach as a development tool it should say so explicitly to the Bank and work with the donor community in devising how best to do so. Before doing so, however, it was recognized that both government officials (especially those working directly with the Bank) and Bank staff would need to be informed and educated on what value such an approach would add in meeting the needs of the poorest and most marginalized, and how best to do it.
Speakers at the Geneva Meeting included Dr. Erfried Adam, Friederich-Ebert Foundation, Dr. Ibrahim Salama, Chairman of the Task Force on the Right to Development, Margaret Sekaggya, Chairperson of the Uganda Human Rights Commission, Susan Mathews, Tilburg University. Speakers at the Cairo event included Dr. Salama, Susan Mathews and myself, as well as Dr. Boutros Boutros Ghali, former UN Secretary-General, Dr. Ahmed Darweesh, Minister of Administrative Development in Egypt, Mr. Ibrahim Wani, UNOHCHR, Professor Stephen Marks, Harvard Univ., Professor Paul Hunt, UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health, Dr. Mona Zoulfakkar, Egyptian National Council for Human Rights, Dr. Bassem Adel, Egyptian Council for Physicians, Mr. Hussein Al Asrage, Deputy Minister Trade and Industry, Ambassador Mahmoud Kassem, Former UN Assistant Secretary General, Dr. Kishore Singh, UNESCO, Mr. Mounir Fakhry Abdelnour, Egyptian National Council for Human Rights and Dr. Moustafa Kamal El Sayed, American Univ. of Cairo.