2015 is a pivotal moment for human rights. People from all corners of the world have called for human rights principles to be a central part of a new development agenda, which will replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in 2015, according to a recent UN Development Group report. The MDGs did not mention nor reflect human rights, but it is no longer possible to ignore human rights in the new development agenda.
“As we approach the year 2015, I believe that we have an historic opportunity to embrace a new paradigm for development fully grounded in human rights,” said UN Human Rights Chief Navi Pillay in a message delivered by Ivan Šimonović, Assistant Secretary General of the UN Human Rights Office, during an event held on 24 September at the United Nations in New York.
During the UN General Assembly’s 68th Session in New York, the UN Human Rights Office organized a side event, From Aspiration to Action: A Human Rights Framework for the Post-2015 Development Agenda, which was sponsored by the governments of Tunisia and France. It brought together high-level Government representatives, civil society and UN organizations to reflect on innovative and practical human rights recommendations emerging through consultations in 88 countries and on key themes, as well as through other mechanisms such as the Secretary General’s High Level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda.
“This is what people across the world are demanding,” Pillay said. “Their cry is for a life lived with human dignity, a life free from fear and free from want, a life in which all human rights can be realized.” The UN Human Rights Office approach for Post-2015 is focused on a new agenda, in which all human rights, including the right to development are fully integrated. “Human rights standards set out requirements for availability, accessibility, acceptability and quality,” Pillay said.
However, a separate human rights goal is not required. “It means building the whole agenda on human rights,” she said. Based on the commitments Member States have made, human rights, as Pillay explained, can assist in choosing which goals to include. “This means ensuring that responsibilities are identified, targets set, and progress monitored, with mechanisms for accountability at local, national and international levels,” Pillay said.
“Human rights reminds us that development is not only about freedom from want, but also freedom from fear,” Pillay said. Pillay expressed the importance of addressing both sides of the development equation, as well as inequality, a global partnership and effective accountability.
During the interactive dialogue, Khalil Zaouia, Minister of Social Affairs of Tunisia, stressed the importance of “freedom from fear” for the new framework of the development agenda. Zaouia said the key elements of “freedom from fear” include justice, democratic participation, and guarantees of civil and political rights. He also said that these principles were just as important at the international level, where reforms were equally needed.
Patrizianna Sparacino, Ambassador for Human Rights of France, addressed “freedom from want,” by focusing on the right to health. Sparacino said establishing universal health coverage without discrimination was an imperative in achieving a health goal.
During the panel discussion, equality, non-discrimination, and accountability were also highlighted as dominant threads for creating a new agenda. Saraswathi Menon, Director of Policy Division of UN Women and Co-Chair of the UN Development Group (UNDG) Human Rights Mainstreaming Mechanism, said that human rights principles should be embedded through targets, goals and indicators. Discrimination worsens when there are multiple forms of inequalities. “Inequalities are not just problems for those who are directly affected. They harm us all,” she said. “Gender inequality is the most pervasive violation of human rights today,” she said.
Roberto Bissio, Coordinator of Social Watch, said that the global community already has a legally binding human rights agenda with concrete goals in place, which requires the international community to treat human rights globally in a fair and equal manner.
Šimonović said that strengthening accountability for achieving post-2015 goals requires the use of existing mechanisms—the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, the Universal Periodic Review, Special Procedures, and the Treaty Bodies system. He also said that civil society must play a role to insure the transparency of governments. The private sector, as Šimonović explained, also has an obligation to respect human rights. “States have an obligation to protect citizens and act if the private sector is not respecting human rights,” he said.
Moderator Craig Mokhiber, Chief of the Development and Economic and Social Issues Branch of the UN Human Rights Office, cited the "global drumbeat" demanding that human rights be placed at the center of development and economic policy," and the growing recognition that a post-2015 agenda that does not integrate human rights would be seen as neither legitimate, nor effective. "This is a battle for the soul of development," he said, "and it will affect the well-being of millions around the world, including the most vulnerable and marginalized."
27 September 2013