"Wherever we lift one soul from a life of poverty, we are defending human rights. And whenever we fail in this mission,
we are failing human rights."2
The issues of human rights and democracy have become buzzwords drawing a lot of attention and energy among development practitioners, activists and beneficiaries. Building democratic states capable of focusing on reducing poverty is one of the key challenges facing poor low income countries in the 21st century. The human rights approach to development draws its strength from the United Nations Declaration on the “Right to Development with its emphasis on the centrality of the human person as a subject of the development process”. Echoes of this approach have opened up debate on the need for transparency and accountability in delivering aid, especially against the backdrop of the quest to attain the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
Almost sixty years after the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was agreed, basic social and economic rights continue to be violated daily on a massive scale. The Millennium Development Goals correspond directly with the objectives of civil society organizations that have been active in social and economic justice advocacy work. Five years from the Millennium Declaration we are faced with the inevitable need to reassess the current levels of poverty, the instruments that are in place for tackling poverty and indeed the constraints that must be resolved. The fact that the MDGs represent an unprecedented commitment by all nations and institutions, including the IMF and the World Bank, to implement and realize the MDG goals and targets needs to continue to be emphasized at all stages. Part of the global ability to realize the MDGs is dependent on financing of such development.
The MDGs include a fifty percent reduction in poverty and hunger, universal primary education, reduction of child mortality by two-thirds, cutbacks in maternal mortality by three-quarters, promotion of gender equality, and reversal of the spread of HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases. A millennium summit of 189 world leaders in September 2000 pledged to meet all of these goals by 2015. A summit later this year will review progress towards the goals and set the development agenda for the next decade.
Of particular importance to this research report is Goal Eight outlining Northern governments’ commitment to a global partnership for development - a late addition to the MDGs. Goal eight relates to issues of – debt cancellation, trade justice, equitable governance in global institutions, and political, social and economic rights for the poor – as an indispensable foundation for a politics that will enable sustained progress to end poverty in the South. It is an important goal for holding developed countries accountable in advancing the MDGs. This goal is particularly significant as it requires richer countries to reform their policies and actions to contribute to the fight against poverty. The lack of basic rights in poor countries stems from and reinforces highly unequal power, within and between countries, which marginalise poor people’s needs and priorities.
Is the Acting Executive Director & Programme Director of Research and Policy Analysis at the African Forum &
Network on Debt and Development (AFRODAD)
Kofi Annan (2000) addressing the United Nations General assembly on the Millennium Development Goals. United
Nations, New York