| The Courier N°128 July-August 1991 - Dossier : Human Rights- Democracy-Development Country reports: Benin, Western Samoa |
by Manuel Marin
Vice-President of the European Commission
The human rights debate has broadened considerably of late. Growth models can no longer be designed along purely economic lines but must be linked to models of society too.
Although in the past, human rights infringements were quite often raised as issues of principle (in LomÃ©ll and III, for example) or when particularly serious breaches had occurred. the international community always preferred (whether from self-interest or hypocrisy) to avoid placing matters such as regimes and political structures on the agenda. Nowadays, as I have stated before, even the most neutral of international organizations openly discuss these issues, under pressure from two sources:
— First and most obviously, people are gradually waking up to the fact that economic reforms are heavily dependent for their success on certain social structures, democratic ones especially, existing at the same time. Individuals cannot be expected to be productive unless they actually have the possibility of guiding and controlling the way the benefits of their work are used; that much is obvious, and the collapse of the regimes of Eastern Europe is there to prove it.
— Second, and to my mind much more importantly, the demand for democracy did not just emerge from the hallowed precincts where the funders hold their technocratic meetings. It came in fact from the developing countries themselves, from the peoples who are now, with greater or lesser degrees of urgency, calling for a complete reform of their political structures.
The movements may be violent, they may be confused and they may be hesitant, but their demands are' Finch the same everywhere — representation of the; people, freedom of expression, more efficient management and'the'rule of law.
Failing to understand and provide support for this wave, which is a clear sign of our partners' increasing political maturity, would be to ignore the very foundations of our commitment to development linked not only to growth but also inspired by a concept which focuses on man as operator and principal beneficiary, in which human rights are recognised as one of the basics of genuine development—as Article 5 of LomÃ© IV makes clear.
These new considerations were behind the communication on human rights, democracy and development cooperation policy which the Commission made to the Council and the European Parliament in March this year.
The idea was to trigger thinking and come up with coherent, general lines of conduct for the relationships to be established between development cooperation policies, respecting and promoting human rights and supporting the democratization process in the developing countries.
This is why the two main aims for development cooperation in the Commission's political union proposals are to:
— ensure economic and social development and meet the basic needs of the populations of the developing countries;
— ensure development and consolidation of democracy and the rule of law, and respect for human rights.
The processes for taking decisions on human rights and democracy in relation to development cooperation can be designed, with a view to greater effectiveness and consistency, in the light of whatever guidelines are laid down at the intergovernmental conference on political union.
So it is as well to ask how the human rights-democracy issue can be reflected more clearly in the cooperation policy guidelines.
If the Community's initiatives are to be politically credible, they must be seen to be free of particular politico-economic interests or preferences. Equally important is for the attitudes of the Community and the Member States to be more consistent.
The Commission's thinking on this is based on the indissoluble links between human rights and democracy on the one hand and the right to development on the other.
Human rights and democratic principles are not just an aim in themselves. To my way of thinking, they are a sine qua non of the balanced, effective development which is designed to meet the basic needs of the people.
There can be no question of imposing institutional models on our partners in development. What we have to do is emphasise the fact that the battle for human rights is a universal battle and that human rights are entirely independent of whatever the form of society may be. Now that South Africa is on its way to becoming a multi-party, multi-racial democracy, I do not see how the rest of Africa can dissociate itself from what has become a universal phenomenon.
Switching to democracy means respecting fundamental nghts, opening a political dialogue and running free elections to guarantee a pluralist society. And if democratic systems are to be set up in the developing countries, it must be primarily as a result of internal initiatives, for democracy cannot be imposed from the outside.
So the Community must go along with the move to democracy and freedom at the pace which the history of each country dictates and in the light of the historical and cultural characteristics of each — provided that progress actually occurs.
The essential thing, to my mind, is to lay the foundations for profound and lasting democracy. Our immediate priority must be to promote what might be called economic democracy in which every section of the population has fair access to economic resources and a larger part to play in development.
The Community's cooperation policy should help establish genuine democracy in the developing world and make these countries work more transparently, more openly and more efficiently. This pursuit of the principle of good governance demands proper domestic control of the way development funds are used.
In the context I have just outlined, the Commission feels that Community action should concentrate on positive support and promotion as far as possible. A frank and open dialogue has to be established with the developing countries if this sort of approach is to work. The need for negative reaction measures may be to some extent a sign of failure, but they may be necessary in extreme cases of violation of human rights. If this happens, reaction has to be graded according to the degree of seriousness and due care must be taken to avoid harming the interests of the most underprivileged sections of the population.
The debate on the link between human rights, democracy and development is extremely important, for it could, I am convinced, shape North-South relations in the 1990s.
I hope that a frank and open exchange of views by all the parties concerned will clarify the various viewpoints and make for a consistent, global approach.
Article 5 of the LomÃ© IV Convention
1. Cooperation shall be directed towards development centred on man, the main protagonist and beneficiary of development, n hick thus entails respect for and promotion o f all human rights. Cooperation operations shall thus be conceived if accordance with the positive approach, where respect for human rights is recognised as a basic factor of real development and u here cooperation is conceived as a contribution to the promotion of these rights
In this context development policy and cooperation are closely linked with the respect for and enjoyment of f undamental human rights. The role and potential of initiatives taken by individuals and groups shall also be recognised and fostered in order to achieve in practice real participation of the population in the development process in accordance with Article 13.
Hence the Parties reiterate their deep attachment to human dignity and human rights, which are legitimate aspirations of individuals and peoples. The rights in question are all human rights, the various categories thereof being indivisible and interrelated, each having its own legitimacy. non-discriminator treatment, fundamental human rights, civil and political rights, economic. social and cultural rights.
Every individual shall have the right, in his own country or in a host country, to respect for his dignity and protection by the law.
ACP-EEC cooperation shall help abolish the obstacles preventing individuals and peoples from actually enjoying to the full their economic, social and cultural rights and this must be achieved through the development which is essential to their dignity, their well-being and their self-fulfilment. To this end, the Parties shall strive, Jointly or each in its own sphere of responsibility, to help e/in~inate the causes of situations of misery urZit~ol-thy of the human condition and of deep-rooted economic and social inequalities.
The Contl acting /'urties hereby r eaff rm their existing obligations and con~n~itl1'ent in international lau' to strive to eliminate all forms of discriminatiol1 based on ethnic group, origin, race, natiol7a/ity, colour, sex, language, religion or any other situation. This coml77itl71elZt applies more particularly to any situation in the ACP States or in the Community that may adverse/ affect t/'e pursuit of the objectives of the Convention and to the system of apartheid, having regard also to its destabilizing effects on the outside. The Member States (and/or, where appropriate, the Community itself) and the ACP States Will continue to ensure, through the legal or administrative measures which they have or Will have adopted, that migrant worders, students and other foreign nationals legally within their territry are not subjected to discrimination on the basis of racial, religious, cultural or social differences. notably in respect of housing, education, health care, other social services and employment.
3. A t the request of the ACP States, financial resources may he allocated, in accordance with the rules governing development finance cooperation, to the promotion of human rights in the ACP States through specific schemes, public or private, that Would be decided, particularly in the legal ~sphere, in consultation With bodies of internationally recognised competence in the field. Resources may also be given to support the establishment of structures to promote human rights. Priority shall be given to schemes of regional scope.