Earlier this month, the World Bank’s Water and Sanitation Program (WSP), Nordic Human Rights Trust Fund, and the World Bank’s Sanitation Thematic Group hosted Catarina de Albuquerque, the first UN Special Rapporteur on the human right to sanitation and safe drinking water. She discussed the human right to sanitation with sector and human rights experts, and what it means in practice. One of the most notable questions she addressed was--- if something is a human right, does that mean it has to be free?
I recently gave a talk about ICT and Development at the annual Re:Campaign conference in Berlin, organized by Oxfam Germany. Anyone who knows me will realize that this is a bit odd – despite being a blogaholic, I am actually Rubbish At Technology. In front of 300 trendy, young (sigh) i-thingy wielding activists, I felt like a Neanderthal at a cocktail party. Still, at least the fear of being shamed up finally got me tweeting two weeks before the conference.
I decided to make a virtue of necessity and set out some core processes in development, and then reflected on what ICT does/doesn’t contribute. Why take this approach (apart from being a techno-caveman, that is)? Because there’s too much magic bulletism in development –microfinance, GM crops and now ‘cyber utopianism’. What all of these have in common is that they are too often presented as ‘get out of jail free’ cards, delivering development without all the messy business of politics and struggle. At best, new technologies shift power balances, sometimes favourably, sometimes not, but they don’t replace the process of struggle in development.
There is increasing convergence between the goals that human rights advocates aspire to, and the development work of the World Bank. This was the consensus reached at a panel discussion on Integrating Human Rights in PREM's work, organized as part of the Conference organized by the Poverty Reduction and Economic Management (PREM) network on May 1 and 2, 2012. The panel included Otaviano Canuto, Vice President of the Network, and other experts at the Bank working on labor, justice, poverty, and governance issues from a rights-perspective. It was moderated by Linda van Gelder, Director of the Public Sector and Governance group.
The panel showcased innovative ways in which a human rights perspective is being integrated into the Bank's work. In Vietnam, the governance team has engaged the country in looking at how right to information can further transparency and how awareness of rights can make the state more responsive to citizens. A team in PREM is looking at the Human Opportunity Index as a means of assessing inequality of opportunity among children. The World Development Report on Jobs emphasizes the concept of ‘better jobs’ that improve societal welfare, not just ‘more jobs’. Several of these programs are supported through the Nordic Trust Fund that furthers a human rights approach to development issues.
The session on Human Right to Water has led to constructive debate and dialogue. More interestingly, discussion on whether the human right to water implies providing water for free is no longer part of the mainstream debate. We have moved beyond this dichotomy and are now focused on figuring out how to make it work, while recognizing the costs involved.
There were many take-away messages. We need to operationalize the definition of the human right to water, develop more specific indicators and targets for each dimension that makes up the human right to water, and work to ensure that targets and indicators are relevant for different country contexts. Questions such as How affordable is affordable?, How safe is safe?, and How available is available? will differ between countries.
At a recent gathering of World Bank staff in Helsinki to take stock of progress on activities supported by the Nordic Trust Fund on Human Rights (NTF), one found lawyers, health specialists, economists and other social scientists. There were participants from all regions, from network anchors and from operations; there were those focused on research, those integrating human rights perspectives into operations, and those supporting our clients’ efforts to strengthen human rights.
The Internet Rights and Principles Coalition - a group formed out of the Internet Governance Forum - has been working for many months to develop rights-based principles to govern the Internet. Those draft principles are now out, and can be found here. They are duplicated below (excerpted from the Access website):
The Internet offers unprecedented opportunities for the realization of human rights, and plays an increasingly important role in our everyday lives. It is therefore essential that all actors, both public and private, respect and protect human rights on the Internet. Steps must also be taken to ensure that the Internet operates and evolves in ways that fulfill human rights to the greatest extent possible. To help realize this vision of a rights-based Internet environment, the 10 Rights and Principles are:
Talk of citizen agency and citizen power is all over the place these days - the media, the international community, academia and everybody else who cares about change and how it happens is looking in awe at current events. Civil protests have changed the political face of an important part of this world, and so far they have done so mostly peacefully. The persistence of protesters to not use violence is one of the most outstanding features of what we're seeing unfold in some Northern African countries. The rejection of violence may be one of the most important factors that contribute to the success of these uprisings.
- The World Region
- Middle East and North Africa
- Repressive Regimes
- Public Opinion
- Protest Campaigns
- Peaceful Revolution
- Maria Stephan
- Iron Curtain
- human rights
- Erica Chenoweth
- Civil Uprisings
- Civil Protest
- Authoritarian Regime
- Arab Spring
The last 20 years have seen a growing engagement between development and human rights practitioners. But are we still mainly talking past each other? Or has there been valuable mutual learning with development results on the ground?
Let’s start by clarifying what I mean when I refer here to human rights. Adapted from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, human rights are international norms that help to protect all people everywhere from severe political, legal, economic and social abuses, or, alternatively, which serve to secure and preserve extremely important goods, protections and freedoms in these various areas, for all people everywhere. These rights are now embodied in the 1947 Universal Declaration on Human Rights and nine core international covenants and treaties.
Since 1947 much has happened. And in the last two decades, there has been a growing convergence between human rights and development. Paralleling the broad reach of human rights concerns, the scope of development has also extended enormously. From mainly being concerned with economic growth, the term has broadened to include poverty reduction, inequality, human and social development, the environment, governance and institutions, just to name some. From GDP figures, we now also think about households and the specific needs of specific groups.