Cover Image
close this bookEssays on Food, Hunger, Nutrition, Primary Health Care and Development (AVIVA, 480 p.)
close this folder62. What does the New UN Human Rights Approach Bring to the Struggle of the Poor?
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentWe live in a new age of rights
View the documentThe Challenge: what changes?
View the documentThe Human Rights approach: Some Iron Laws
View the documentThe participation factor in Human Rights
View the documentThe use of indicators in Human Rights work
View the documentThe World Bank, or a position full of contradictions on how to look at the Human Rights approach
View the documentHuman Rights from the United Nations’ and the NGOs’ perspective
View the documentWriting Human Rights into law
View the documentTraining in Human Rights
View the documentSome conclusions

The World Bank, or a position full of contradictions on how to look at the Human Rights approach

[For your judgment, I am here quoting from the intervention of James Christopher Lovelace, WB vice-president, in the ACC/SCN Symposium on ‘The substance and politics of a Human Rights approach to food and nutrition policies and programs’, Geneva, April 1999. (13) (Emphases are mine)]

53. ”The WB recognizes that the Human Rights approach is an important new narrative (...?) of the international development discourse...

(Granted,) Sustainable Development is impossible without Human Right. (But)This realization does not imply the World Bank’s lending and non-lending decisions will always be governed by Human Rights considerations...

For the WB, the measure of its commitment on ethical, political or rights issues does not lie in its pronouncements, but on how its resources have been applied. Its loans have helped turn rights into realities (...?)...

(On the other hand,) The Bank’s Articles of Agreement clearly state that in all its decisions, only economic considerations shall be relevant.(WB, 1996). This criterion has, at times, been applied in too narrow a fashion, sometimes with negative consequences...

The question (then) is whether the limited mandate of the WB would preclude it from adequately confronting the issue of Human Rights...

(No matter what,) The Human Rights framework still leaves us with the practical challenge to make choices...

(I think) The principles of Human Rights must exert an abiding influence on the design of the operational details of WB projects...

(Actually,) We need a division of labor: advocacy for respect of Human Rights should be the task of the UN agencies, bilateral donors and NGOs; providing resources for scaling up projects that fulfill Human Rights should be the role of the International Financial Institutions...

The WB’s specific role and contribution will (thus) continue to be to bring to the debate a measure of economic rigor required to systematically weigh alternative means towards fulfilling the states’ obligations towards Human Rights”...

54. One critic of Mr Lovelace’s portrayal of the Bank’s stance countered that the World Bank had been instrumental in making it very difficult for governments to respect, protect, facilitate and fulfill their Human Rights obligations. It had repeatedly created constraints such that people in many countries had not had their rights fulfilled. As a matter of fact, he said, Structural Adjustment constantly creates difficulties and constraints for Human Rights. (2)

55. To this, Mr Lovelace replied: “I would agree that structural adjustment hasn't always considered the human dimension, and in some cases has clearly worked against it”. (13)

[The above is not presented as an exposee or a mockery; it just is to show how the Human Rights approach also forces institutions to take sides: and they are not always well prepared to do so. I am confident the Bank will find some astute way out (or in) on this issue as well].