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Placing human rights and development at the centre of globalization

Since the inception of overseas development assistance almost 50 years ago, donor countries have given some two trillion US Dollars in aid. Yet, at the height of the global financial and economic crises, 18 trillion US Dollars had been found globally to bail out banks and other financial institutions, according to the UN Millennium Campaign.

A child vendor, in Yemen’s capital Sanaa, selling bread, 26 December 2011 © OHCHR/ Mohamed KheirIn a letter addressed to the President of the 13th quadrennial session of the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the UN Human Rights Chief, Navi Pillay, said that human rights, including the right to development, can help fortify and reinforce the theme of development-centred globalization.

The meeting, which took place this month in Doha, Qatar, focused its discussions on the theme: “Development Centred Globalization: Towards Inclusive and Sustainable Growth and Development”.

The report by the Secretary-General of UNCTAD, Supachai Panitchpakdi, noted that globalization had been driven by speculative finance, which had established the world economy but also damaged development in developing countries. The document advocated for the start of a new era of development-led globalisation in which the state had to resume its leading role in development, with a North-South deal based on taming the financial sector; turning trade and investment towards development; managing new threats; and more democratic governance of the world economy.

While human rights experts agree that globalization must be development-centred, they also insist that development must go beyond economic growth and be founded on universally agreed human rights standards, including the right to development and rights based approaches to development.

“The process of development itself must be unlocked from the confines of an overly narrow focus on economic growth. The global economic, financial and climate crises have revealed that to reach truly inclusive and sustainable growth, we must also ensure a human face to both development and globalization,” Pillay said. “Human rights can guide our collective responses to contemporary challenges, including globalization and the global crises which have emerged in recent years.”

Participation, transparency and accountability can ensure more inclusive, more sustainable and more efficient development. Furthermore, non-discriminatory development is more equitable, and the empowerment of women, minorities and marginalized communities yields vastly more development dividend.

“Development will be inclusive and sustainable only when those who tend to be excluded have full participation in development. We must give a voice and allow for policy space for the concerns of poor, vulnerable and marginalized individuals and groups,” the High Commissioner said.

“The human rights framework, in particular, the 1986 UN Declaration on the Right to Development, presents a development paradigm aimed at the improved well-being of all people, including through free, active and meaningful participation in development; equitable distribution of the benefits of development locally and globally; and promoting an equitable international order in which all human rights can be realized,” the High Commissioner added. “Shared responsibilities, human rights-based policy coherence and systemic integration, in my view, can further strengthen the global partnership for development.”

At the meeting, several state leaders echoed Pillay’s concern for people-centred growth and development. The civil society declaration called for “a new global social contract, based on universal human rights and on social and environmental justice” and for UNCTAD to “find constructive ways to effectively mainstream human rights – especially the right to development- in its work.”

The outcome documents – Doha Mandate and Doha Manar – acknowledged human development needs and human rights, including the right to development.

11 May 2012

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