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writing for godot

For many years, and till today, many a country in the world is 'en vias de subdesarrollo'.(Albino Gomez)

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Saturday, 15 May 2021 15:53

Human rights: Food for an underdeveloped thought  ‘Development without HR?’


Human Rights Reader 577

-Piu le cose cambiano, piu sono le stesse cose. (G. Lampedusa)


[TLDR (too long didn’t read): This Reader is about what the very felt absence of human rights in the development process brings about. For a quick overview, just read the bolded text].


Global governance of the development conundrum cannot remain a club for the rich in the North


1. Development challenges are as relevant for the North as for the South with numerous common problems being interconnected. (Covid…?) For many years, development has been driven by a N/S view of how things are done with those in the South deemed to have the problems and those in the North the solutions. In this geographical and external-funding-driven view of the world, the South ‘learns’ from the North. Currently, the incentives and the development institutions are misaligned. Mutual learning is important, but so is the unlearning of conventional, obsolete approaches. The traditional silo funding streams to the South also need to be broken. In short, not to be forgotten, is the fact that, in development, there still are dominant (domineering?), self-appointed ‘partners’. (Richard Longhurst)


2. Multi-stakeholder initiatives and platforms* now ubiquitous in development work are simply not fit for purpose for protecting human rights (HR). This is largely because they have not ‘fundamentally restricted corporate power or addressed the power imbalances that drive abuse’. Current systems of global economic governance operate under an outdated model that assigns decision-making prerogatives based on historical economic power.  For instance, major decisions about the direction of the global economy and overall development are made in spaces such as the G20 and in the WEF in Davos. (Kate Donald et al, A Rights-Based Economy: Putting People and Planet First, CESR, 2020)

*: Multi-stakeholder platforms and PPPs have been using frameworks that (not innocently) obscure key connections and undermine the basis for a more comprehensive understanding and, therefore, for systemic action. Systemic blind spots undermine their ability to get the full picture so as to steer the development process towards sustainable impact. (E. A. Frison)


The world remains mired in a thinking based on competition and on the notion of Northern superiority


3. The North’s promise of ‘development’ is contradictory and unachievable. The term itself perpetuates colonial notions of domination and superiority. Strategies for development devised by technocrats often do not match the everyday reality of the purported beneficiaries. Simply redefining the term ‘development’, or extending it as in the case of the SDGs(!), will not do. To overcome global inequality, these streams of thought must be replaced. In their place, we need an ethos of global justice, HR and solidarity. (Julia Schoenberg) [market-based development ethics à no sustainability; no HR à no sustainability… --wither the SDGs].


The [[aid]] external funding system purports to redistribute wealth from the poorer to the richer, but does it?


-I do not fear those from abroad that want to buy us; I am afraid of those from within the country who want to sell us. (Arturo Illía, ex president of Argentina)

-I became aware of all the organizations that were using the surplus wealth of the Northern world to, in their words, ‘protect’ the world. (V.S. Naipaul, A Bend in the River)


4. For decades, centrally (northerly…) produced guidelines have indicated how to invest mostly borrowed money for allegedly implement the ‘proper’ administration and use of resources poured into development.**

**: Mind you, China and Vietnam reduced poverty significantly with almost no help from the Northern countries, while aid-dependent countries like Malawi and Timor-Leste have fared badly.


5. So, two questions arise here: a) Why does the aid industry (“…the lords of poverty”) keep on prospering? And b) Does it not really work under an aura of beneficence when ‘aid’ in fact promotes self-interest? Providing aid helps governments to look good in diplomatic fora while encouraging taxpayers to feel good about their generosity. (This is why I do not use the word aid anymore; the correct word is external funding!). The mercantile interests of aid givers usually enjoy priority over the interests of aid recipients. Donors use external funding, not only to gain footholds for their industries and services, but also to enforce ‘sound policy’ --in reality meaning policy that is suitable for investors. The remedies prescribed are well-rehearsed: sell-offs of public property; weaker protection of labor rights and environmental safeguards…*** In sum here, countries rendered poor routinely put more resources at the disposal of [[donor]] external funding country interests than they receive in true foreign aid; yet it is not easy to demonstrate this inconvenient truth conclusively… (David Sogge)

***: While HR language resonates with academics, lawyers, activists and public interest CSOs, it does not sway a broader audience of external funders --in that community, neither liberals nor conservatives proactively consider HR. (Katerina Linos et al) Not surprisingly then, a significant number of international NGOs dependent on external funders is unwilling, or unprepared, to tackle more cumbersome systemic approaches that include HR. (Ted Schrecker)


The question is not what we can do to prevent disaster, but what we can do with the disaster we should have prevented (United Edge)


6. They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over-and-over-again and expecting a different result. Decades of work and billions of dollars of external funding have proven that it is time to reinvent how we organize for social change. If we fail to change now, we should all be locked up. So, what do we do from here on? The sooner we realize this, the sooner we can respond and, as ever, we do not have time to waste.


7. You see? The still dominant development paradigm’s main message is that countries need to get richer, not more sustainable --and that to climb the ladder and become ‘developed’ they ought to follow the advice and example of their richer peers. This mindset must be overcome once and for all! (Global Civil Society Report) No wonder, then, that claim holders --their lives and their values of democracy, solidarity, and hope for a better future-- have, forever now, played their role as victims rather than as subjects.  (Gianni Tognoni, Alejandro Macchia)


8. “When the farthest corner of the globe has been conquered technologically --and can be exploited economically-- […] then, yes then, like a specter, there still will loom over all the uproar the questions: what for (and for whom)? where to? and what then?” (Martin Heidegger) The substantial convergence between the question of what-do-we-do-from-here-on and the questions that Heidegger raised long ago can be seen as certainly the most worrying moral and HR dilemma I leave you to ponder-with at the end of this Reader.


Claudio Schuftan, Ho Chi Minh City

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-Not really facetiously, foreign aid might be defined as a transfer of money from poor people in rich countries to rich people in poor countries. (Douglas Case) your social media marketing partner
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