|Realizing Human Rights for Poor People - Strategies for achieving the international development targets (DFID, 2000, 34 p.)|
|2. The challenge: integrating human rights into development|
2.1 Human rights are commonly understood as being those rights which are inherent to the human being. Human rights are legally guaranteed by human rights law, which consists of the treaties as well as declarations, guidelines and principles that have been agreed under the auspices of the United Nations since 1945. A treaty is an agreement by states to be bound by particular rules. General principles of human rights law, to which most states would agree, are often stated in declarations, proclamations, standard rules, guidelines, recommendations and principles. These documents include the Declarations and the Programmes of Action agreed at major UN World Conferences. They represent a broad consensus on the part of the international community on actions required to implement those rights and have a strong moral force on the practice of states. The human rights framework provides a basis for both legal measures to promote institutional change and interventions to create consensus around the values and norms they represent.
2.2 UN human rights instruments have been developed on the basis of international government and civil society debate and agreement. The increasing openness of the UN system to civil society perspectives means that human rights law responds to the views, interests and needs of many different groups of people around the world. The UN human rights institutions continue to evolve and this is reflected in the development of new guidelines on issues such as reproductive rights and child labour. The interpretation and application of these instruments change and develop, over time and are subject to political controversy and debate, globally and within countries, communities and families. The international human rights framework reflects the consensus of the international community at any one time and provides the basis for establishing rights at the national level.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was the starting point for the development of legally binding international human rights treaties. The consequent International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights came into force in 1976. Currently there are some 140 States Parties to the former and 137 to the latter. In addition to the two covenants, there are four core thematic human rights treaties: The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. There are a number of other UN instruments setting accepted human rights standards in particular areas e.g. aspects of the treatment of prisoners, rights of persons belonging to minorities, right to development, the ILO Conventions on workers' rights as well as international humanitarian law and refugee law.
2.3 The end of the Cold War has removed many of the ideological barriers to governments' acceptance of the human rights principles of the interdependence of all rights and the equality of all people. Every country in the world has ratified at least one of the six principal UN human rights treaties. Ratification of a convention means that the state has committed itself legally to do everything within its capacity to meet a variety of human rights standards. Not all governments, however, have taken these obligations seriously.
Regional Human Rights Charters are based on the principles of
the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other Conventions. They provide a
means of bringing international law and standards closer to people in different
parts of the different parts of the world. Regional charters include the African
Charter ion Human and Peoples' Rights, the American Convention on Human Rights
and the European Convention on Human Rights. The African Charter on Human and
Peoples' Rights was adopted by the Organization of African Unity (OAHU) in 1981
and entered into force in 1986. It is a legally binding treaty to which, by
August 1997, there were 51 State Parties. It contains civil, political,
economic, social and cultural rights. It also includes various peoples' rights,
such as the right to a healthy environment, which are not reflected in other
international or legally binding instruments. Implementation of the African
Charter is supervised by the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights
which was established in November 1987. An African Court of Human Rights has yet
to be established. ' The American Convention on Human Rights was adopted by the
Organisation of American States (OAS) in 1969 and has been ratified by 25
countries. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, one of the principal
organs of the OAS, reviews complaints and communications relating to the
Convention. Governments and the Inter-American Commission may submit cases to
the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. The European Convention on Human
Rights was adopted on 4 November 1950. The Human Rights Act of 1998 committed
the UK Government to incorporate the Convention into domestic law. Asia does not
currently have either a regional charter or a court of human rights. Many Asian
states, however, are parties to a broad range of global human rights instruments
2.4 Poor people have rights to education and health, to an adequate livelihood including food, water and housing, to just and favourable conditions of work, to security and freedom from violence. They cannot access these rights when their voices are not heard, when they are discriminated against, or when the state is not accountable for its human rights obligations.
2.5 Participation usually means participation in the community or in development projects. Participatory methods have been used to ascertain local level needs and priorities. These findings, however, have not always been fed into state policy and budget formulation processes. Formal political processes provide one means of enabling citizens to have some say in the policies of their country. An increasing number of countries have become committed to democratic political participation. But even where they operate in a relatively free and fair manner, voting, lobbying and political parties are not sufficient to empower poor people. One of the key findings from the World Bank's series of consultations with the poor is that many people in developing countries, including those with democratically elected governments, consider themselves to be powerless and lacking influence over the key decisions which affect their lives3
2.6 People are not only concerned with having a say in decision-making processes. In South Africa in 1998, people said that they wanted much more information about the decisions that had been made at national and local levels as well as more feed-back on the activities of political representatives and government workers.4
Participation is central to enabling people to claim all their human rights. The key challenge is to ensure that actions to increase citizens' participation: in decision-making processes empower the poor and not just local elites. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights defines people's rights to take part in formal political processes (UHDR 21). Article 20 affirms the right to freedom of association and Article 23 includes the right to form and join trade unions. Both the: Copenhagen and Beijing declarations emphasise the importance of promoting the participation of excluded people in governmental processes and bodies. Rights to participation are linked to information rights. Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights defines the right to freedom of opinion and expression. This right includes the right to receive and impart information and ideas through any media regardless of frontiers.
2.7 A free press and media provide access to information about the activities of government and non-government organisations at local and national levels Poverty and social exclusion both tend to accompany limited access to media and information. Illiteracy, linguistic diversity, physical remoteness, poor transport and social isolation can all create communication difficulties even where the press is free.
2.8 As the World Bank's series of consultations with the poor indicates, many people in developing countries are concerned with issues of corruption among government officials at both local and national levels. Access to information enables citizens to monitor the actions of government workers and guard against corruption.
The Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS), or Association for the Empowerment of Workers and Farmers, is a civil society movement which grew in response to evidence of local government corruption in the north Indian state of Rajasthan. The group promotes the idea that citizens have a right both to know how they are governed and to participate actively in the process of auditing their representatives. Work with poorer sections of society in the early nineties highlighted the role of government corruption in keeping wages low when it became clear that local authorities were billing central and state governments for higher amounts than were being paid to workers. Their work also showed that goods delivered through the Public: Distribution System, designed to provide subsidised essentials for poor people, were being diverted and sold on the open market. In response to these findings, MKSS developed a method of collective 'social audit' to analyse official information. In a series of 'public hearings', local people have been invited to give testimonies which highlight discrepancies between the official record and their own experiences as labourers on public-works projects, applicants for the means-tested, anti-poverty schemes, or consumers in ration shop.5
2.9 Civil society can put pressure on governing organisations to act in accordance with agreed human rights principles and obligations. Those organisations which operate on democratic principles, rather than representing the interests of elites, can facilitate links between government and communities and increase the involvement of excluded people. Such organisations often possess critical ground-level information on human rights violations and the causes and dynamics of conflicts. Civil society action can also play an important role in early warning and in promoting inter-community dialogue. International human rights organisations have rarely, until recently, worked to promote the economic, social and cultural rights of poor people. The general lack of attention to the interdependence of all human rights represents an important missed opportunity.
2.10 The right to freedom of association is central to achieving just and fair conditions at work as well as ensuring that civil society is able to operate as an effective monitor of government actions. A 1999 survey by the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) 6shows that 123 trade unionists were murdered in 1998, 1,650 individuals were attacked or injured, 3,660 were arrested, and over 21,000 were sacked for trade union activities. The survey cites a record number of 119 countries where either the right to organise is still formally denied or informally abused. The great majority of poor women and men working in the informal sector in developing countries are only just beginning to learn to organise themselves and defend their rights at work - very often through grass-roots and community-based organisations.
2.11 Poverty is not simply the consequence of a lack of resources. Some people are unable to access existing resources because of who they are, what they believe or where they live. Such discrimination is a form of social exclusion and a cause of poverty. Political commitment to the principle of the universality of all rights provides a basis for the development of socially inclusive and equitable societies.
2.12 It is often particular groups within societies which suffer from multiple deprivation of rights. Work to understand gender inequality provides insight into the causes of discrimination more generally. Discrimination may be the product of legal inequalities in status and entitlements. Discrimination also occurs where the needs and rights of particular people are not recognized in policies or provided for through budgetary allocations. Social values and norms may result in discriminatory practices in the implementation of policies as well as in people's relationships within households and communities In many countries, people receive differential treatment from government officials because of their class, religious identity, disability, age, ethnicity or skin colour.7
A socially inclusive society is one in which all people are able! to claim all their rights. The principle of equality of all rights for all people forms the basis of the definition of social inclusion agreed at the 1995 Social Development Summit in Copenhagen. This definition is based on the first and second articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states that all: human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights, and that everyone is entitled to all human rights without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. The human rights framework acknowledges that some people suffer particular rights deficits through reference to specific forms of discrimination. The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of: Discrimination Against Women, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and the Convention on the Rights of the Child take account of forms of discrimination on the basis of gender, race and age. International standards for upholding the rights of people with disabilities are set out in the UN Standard Rules on the Equalization of: Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities. Human rights which are of particular concern to: indigenous and minority peoples include rights to land, cultural integrity, participation in decision-making, health and a healthy environment.8 The UN instruments which define these rights include the International Covenants, the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and the International Labor Organisation Convention No 169 concerning Indigenous and Tribal People in Independent Countries.
2.13 Inequalities and discrimination may be deeply rooted in social institutions and norms which shape relationships within the household and community. Cultural understandings of gender roles, for example, mean that some women may not be able to question their husband's behaviour because they fear they may be beaten. Where women do not have equal rights to land, they may be unable to challenge their husband without risk of being thrown out of the household and losing access to their means of subsistence.9 Understanding the interaction between social practices, policies and law is central to addressing issues such as the spread of HIV and ensuring that people have equal access to available resources. Human rights agreements, such as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, mean that governments have obligations to address social discrimination through efforts to promote rights awareness and attitudinal change as well as reform. of legislation and policies.
2.14 In cases such as the Roma in Eastern Europe, exclusion has led in the recent past to denial of citizenship rights because they are seen by the majority as 'undesirable'. In their most extreme forms, racism and discrimination on the basis of ethnicity have led to conflict and genocide. Addressing the rights of the excluded is central to the prevention of conflict and the promotion of socially inclusive societies in which all people can enjoy lives of freedom and security.
2.15 Where human rights are not legally protected or recognised in the policies and practices of service providers, people are unable to claim entitlements, even where resources are available. Ratification of human rights treaties and the incorporation of human rights norms into domestic legislation are necessary for the protection of human rights. But states have very different capacities to reform legislation and ensure that it is enforced. Building governments' capabilities to provide accessible justice and legal redress, based on respect for human rights, is central to the realisation of human rights for poor people.10
2.16 Legislation alone is not sufficient to ensure the realisation of human rights. Constitutional commitments often remain as abstract principles because governments fail to address their obligations through budget and policy formulation processes which allocate resources to particular sectors and define the levels and standards of provision that all citizens can expect. At the local level, people need a clear understanding of what particular rights mean in terms of concrete entitlements in order to be able to claim them.
States have obligations to protect, promote and ensure the realisation of all human rights. International and national human rights institutions provide channels for monitoring violations of human rights. Legal action provides another channel for ensuring citizens are protected. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights defines individuals' rights to equality before the law, to protection from arbitrary arrest, detention and exile and to a fair and public hearing by an independent tribunal (Universal Declaration of Human Rights 8,9,10,11). States' obligations also require positive action to promote human rights.11 Clear performance standards, civil society action and political mechanisms are central to ensuring the accountability of the state for its obligations to promote all human rights. States also have international obligations to promote human rights globally. While states have primary responsibilities for ensuring the realisation of human rights, all people have general duties to exercise their rights responsibly and respect the rights of others. Article 29 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights makes clear that human rights are not just a matter of citizen-state relations. Everyone has a duty to the community.
2.17 Human rights institutions can influence government to promote rights more vigorously, and to address rights violations where they occur. Their capacity to do this varies according to the type of institution, its powers of enforcement, levels of resourcing and the degree of independence from government. Human rights institutions also give citizens access to international law and institutions and, therefore, hold their government to account. To date, however, such institutions have tended to concentrate on civil and political rights and give less emphasis to all the human rights of poor people.
2.18 Protecting and promoting human rights during violent conflict is one of the most difficult challenges for the international community. The nature of violent conflict has changed. Where conflicts used to be 'set-piece' battles between armies, civilians are now most likely to become war casualties, made homeless or maimed. Most of these are women and children. Also, most armed conflicts are now internal, not international. Sometimes they are 'civil wars'; sometimes they are acts of aggression by one party (often states), against the civilian population. The mechanisms to protect civilians are also developing, mostly contained within international humanitarian law. When people flee to other countries they are entitled to international protection. Countries receiving refugees may need assistance to cope with a large influx of people in desperate conditions.
2.19 As the international community recognises that the human rights of civilians are violated in conflict, distinctions between international humanitarian law, human rights law and refugee law are blurring. UN agencies such as the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the UN High Commission for Refugees and the International Committee of the Red Cross are having to develop their strategies in this respect.
3 Global Synthesis: Consultations with the Poor. World Bank 1999.
4 Poverty and Human Rights. National Speak Out on Poverty Hearings, March to June 1998.
5 Jenkins and Goetz. Accounts and Accountability. Theoretical Implications of the Right-to Information Movement in India, 1999.
6 ''1999 ICFTU Annual Survey of Violations of Trade Union Rights.
7. See also the DFID strategy paper, Poverty elimination and the empowerment of women and the DFID issues papers, Disability, poverty and development (DFID 2000); Helping not hurting children (DFID 1999).
8 Fergus MacKay: The Rights of Indigenous People in International Law: A Briefing Paper for DFID.
9 Rosalind Petchesky and Karen Judd. Negotiating Reproductive Rights. Zed Press 1998.
10 "DFID Strategy Paper: Making government work for poor people. June 2000.
11 Human Development Report 2000