Essay on Linking Human Rights with Trade and Aid

It went on to assert that ‘the full realisation of civil and political rights without the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights is impossible’. The European Community States decided ‘to reserve their position of principle’ on the implication of the later part of the resolution.

Within the past few years t

We Will Write a Custom Essay Specifically
For You For Only $13.90/page!


order now

he world has witnessed momentous changes. These changes have had important consequences for the developing world, for with the collapse of a competitive ideology namely communism.

There has arisen an uncertainty about the efficacy of an alternative development vision. Previously it was argued that you cannot make an omelette without breaking an egg.

That is you cannot create the benefits of growth without violating, at least temporarily the human rights of a substantial number of citizens. This thesis led to many in South East Asia arguing that human rights and democracy must be subordinated to the imperative of development.

The newly industrialised countries the ‘four tigers’- are cited as inspiring examples of this proposition.

But of these countries, two i.e. Singapore and Hong Kong are small city-states and it would be difficult to draw broad generalisations from their very particular experiences.

Furthermore this model was discredited with the collapse of the Marcos regime in Philippines, and of the military governments in Bangladesh and Pakistan.

The Soviet bloc being already shattered, it now become convincingly clear that the proposition was often no more than a justification for authoritarianism and for the naked use of political power.

It is now widely advocated that paying attention to human rights is integral to development. This view of the interdependence of human rights and development is embodied in the U.N. Declaration on the Rights to Development which was adopted by the General Assembly in 1986.

According to this Declaration, individuals are entitled “to participate in, contribute to and enjoy economic, social, cultural and political development, in which all human rights and fundamental freedoms can be fully realised”.

The core conceptions which inform this Declaration include recognition that the human person is the central subject of development and should be the active participant in and beneficiary of the right to development; acknowledgement that all human rights (civil, political as well as economic, social and cultural rights) are indivisible and interdependent and call for equal attention.

And the realisation that the failure to observe civil and political rights as well as economic, social and cultural rights constitute obstacles to development parties to the Declaration are obliged to formulate development policies that improve the lives and well-being of its people with their “active free and meaningful participation in development and in the fair distribution of benefits resulting there from”.

One of the more important innovations of the U.N. Declaration of 1966 is the provision mandating states to remove ‘obstacles’ to development arising from the failure to respect rights and freedoms.

This means that the state itself will need to observe and respect the rights and freedoms as embodied in the international human rights covenants and related instruments.

The state will also have to address the need to reform its structures, institutions and policies which are an obstacle to the realisation of these rights.

Obstacles to development can also arise from civil society. The dignity of tribal groups, minorities and disadvantaged social groups is often violated by institutions and practices which operate in civil society.

The violators of rights in these cases are not merely the agents of state power but the holders of social status and of economic power.

An important facet of the relationship between human rights and development today is the issue of political conditionality increasingly being posed by Western developed countries in the context of developmental assistance.

Financial aid and even trade is now sought to be made dependent on the observance of political conditions such as ‘good governance’ and the observance of civil and political rights.

What is good governance? The European nations identify it with a democratic political system with the attendant rule of law and accountable institutions a free press and open government.

They have pointed out that in the event of grave and persistent human rights violations or the serious interruption of democratic process, the European community and member states will consider appropriate responses.

Such responses will include confidential or public demarches as well as changes in the content or channels of cooperation or when necessary the suspension of cooperation.

They also want a cut in military expenditure which they believe diverts funds from developmental purposes besides being used for the purposes of internal repression and denial of human rights.

The U.S.A. and Japan two of the most developed countries of the world are the other staunch champions linking developmental assistance and the human rights issue.

According to Canada, progress and human rights should be a central element of developmental assistance.

However, it is also argued that where gross human rights violations prompt interruption or termination of government-to-government assistance alternative ways should be sought to channel such assistance to civil society; emergency humanitarian assistance should never be denied.

Developing countries, by and Large have resisted the attempt to link human rights and aid on the ground that such conditions infringe on their national sovereignty.

They see these intercessions in political terms as efforts to appropriate human rights as an instrument for establishing the political and ideological hegemony of the North over the South.

They see attitudes of moral condescension and cultural superiority implicit in many of the pronouncements of the West on the human rights situations in the developing countries.

Human rights groups, on the other hand, have welcomed such initiatives as they believe that they are likely to result in improved compliance with international human right standards.

They also argue that there are no issues of national sovereignty which should serve as a barrier to international concern on human rights and humanitarian issues.

They further argue that developing countries, by becoming a signatory to international human rights instruments, voluntary accept international scrutiny of their domestic human rights records.

Some even argue that sovereignty is abused when it seeks to shield violation of human rights or grievous human suffering. The concept of national sovereignty has in this respect given way to the concept of international responsibility.

There is no doubt, however, than this question of the link between rights and development aid threatens to further polarise the international community along North-South lines.

India and China have stoutly opposed any move to link human rights to aid, trade or multilateral assistance.

If the donor community is really moved by the humanitarian values and not by political considerations and wants to be effective in maintaining its policy around human rights and aid there is a need for both credibility and consistency.

Credibility is related to the ability of the members-state to ensure that within its national borders, groups like refugees, migrant workers and its own underprivileged classes are not subject to discriminatory and arbitrary treatment.

There can be no such credibility if there is conspicuous disparity between domestic practices and international policies on human rights questions. The vicious beating of Rodney King by the American police recently is a stark example in this context.

The issue of consistency arises when there is selectivity with regard to the countries that are subject, to punitive measures.

A stark example of the double standards followed by the leading nations is their different stands on the Israel-Palestine and Yugoslavia problems.

Is the decision for suspending or terminating development assistance based solely on human rights considerations?

It is palpable that factors such as geo-political importance, the economic model pursued by the recipient country and the domestic needs of the donor country are much more likely to influence such decisions.

Again in the matter of sanctions in trade, it is more a protectionist tactic than true concern for human rights. It is the compulsion of domestic industries that guide these sanctions in most cases.

The whole question of political conditionality has also resulted in criticism that developed countries are seeking to impose Western values and institutions on non-Western societies under the guise of promoting good governance and human rights.

Consequently, the universal character of human rights is now being challenged by many nations in the South. Adding to the dimension of the problems is the fact that though the U.N.’s covenants on human rights were passed in 1948.

This international body does not have the muscle, machinery or money to push for the rights it proclaims; only a minuscule portion of the U.N.’s budget goes on promoting them.

Instead of increasing the resources and efficiency (in regard to the implementation of human rights) of the U.N., individual states, or a group of them, are forcing rather than encouraging the compliance of other countries in following the civil human rights.

This is further adding fuel to the fire: the developing countries are increasingly insisting that the right to development-economic, social and cultural is the most fundamental human right, and that unless this right is recognised the civil and political rights make no sense.

Thus in the last twenty years human rights have not only climbed higher on the U.N. agenda, they have also become the subject of controversy revolving around the question of aid conditionality.

Western donor countries and West-dominated international agencies are increasingly linking aid to a country’s human rights record even as the threatened third world governments are putting forward the sovereign at-stake and culture-specific arguments to stave off international ‘scrutiny’ and ‘extortion’.

Nonetheless, for all the controversies today, enormous progress has been made over these twenty years in making human rights a central political issue of our times.

With a mixture of circumstances and statecraft, the idea of democracy has grown and spread at a rate unparalleled in history.

Most countries now accept that they cannot, so readily, get away with locking-up and torturing those who disagree with the ruling elite.

They know that there is a price to be paid, whether it be in trade and aid or simply and probably most important, in status- most favoured nation (MFN), something that would have been considered astonishing a mere decade ago.

However, there are still too many people being trodden underfoot because they say the ‘wrong’ things or are of the ‘wrong’ colour, race, region or ethnic group.

Discourse on neither human rights or on development has been adequately responsive to the forces of ethnicity and of sub-nationalism which challenge the foundations of a secular-democratic polity.

Lopsided development leads to disillusionment and cynicism towards the appalling disparity between constitutional ideals and the reality of gross and persistent violations of human rights.

The discourse on human rights and development also needs to be enriched by explicit reference to the value-systems of any country.

More so, unless there is sufficient guarantee of meeting the basic needs of every citizen, the concept of human rights is unintelligible for the vast masses of the people in the third world, and this guarantee could be based solely on the degree of development of any people.

Hence, the issue of human rights must not be made a condition for getting aid since resources are necessary for development which is meant to improve the human conditions of the deprived and the dispossessed.

Nor should trade sanctions be threatened in the wake of perceived human rights violation, for it is only by getting a niche in world trade that developing countries can improve their economies and the status of their populations.