Human Rights: prerequisite for development and democracy

(excerpts)

Balakrishna KURVEY*

Looking into the real world, it was not until the beginning of the present century that many civil and political Rights gained ground in Western Europe c.g. freedom of assembly, of association and of expression, universal suffrage etc... not to speak of tragic interlude of fascist dictatorships as from the 1930s.
The problem of respect of human Rights and fundamental freedom has for decades been a cause of alarm for the whole mankind. Institutionalization of these Rights only gained new momentum after the second world war and in the framework of U.N. : ensuring the Human Rights is one of the top priority tasks of the international community...
In recent years there has been growing awareness that, inspite of all efforts developed by the U.N.O. and its specialized agencies to achieve peace, freedom and justice, and inspite of the progressive development of international law on Human Rights, existing international structure still work to the advantage of the powerful and to the detriment of the weak, resulting in the latters increasing dependency and impoverishment.

East and West Ideology of Human Rights

During the first World War, ironically enough, the colonial powers, while claiming to be fighting for freedom, appealed to the nationals of their colonies, after recruiting them by force, to fight in a war which was certainly not going to release them from the chains of colonialism. People in Africa, Asia and South America have been deprived of liberty, exploited and oppressed.
West has given political priority to Human Rights, while East tended to stress independence, peace, disarmament and security. East tended to see Human Rights as benefits secured by the State rather than as individual rights which, if needed be, could be asserted also against the State. East often focused upon economic, social and cultural Rights rather than civil and political Rights as in western countries.
When the East now is undergoing profund change, it is thus not necessarily a complete brakeway from the ideological roots, thoughts, nor does it necessarily means embracing everything from that belongs to a "Western Heritage", but it is of course an adaptation of the Western System of governance espacially as it has evolved in Western Europe after 1945.
Professing Democracy does not always go hand in hand with its implementation in real life. In practice and especially in developing countries, the rule of law is frequently instrumentalized to serve the interest of the prevailing elites. In South we can see this reflected in the pursuit of strong executive power which is prone to authoritarian rule. This is distinct features of societies in time of transition, facing economic hardships and the growth of nationalism.
Defeloping countries leaders and others are to be persuaded that respect for Human Rights is not only compatible with, but also indispensable for the success of their economic development objectives. Respect of Human Rights and fundamental freedom is an essential factor for the peace, justice and well being necessary to ensure the development of friendly relations and cooperation...

How to deal with these impediments?

The issues of Human Rights, fundamental freedom, democracy and the rule of law are international concern. Nevertheless, in the observance of Human Rights the role of U.N.O. is a limited one, in view of the constraints under which it operates. In international relations today, as in the past, no supranational government exists with the right to control and direct the other States which make up the international community. That is why it is the duty of every government which call himself democratic to scrupulously safeguard Human Rights in its own country: this ought to be the ardent aspiration of all peoples throughout the world. The guarantee of the Rights of persons and the safeguard of the common wealth should be of major concern to any State wich claims to be working in the interest of its population.
In fact, every State adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but it has not really been applied.
Consequently, detailed and relevant research programmes and efficient mobilization gain ground at a national level. Since governments are in most cases not anxious to take up these duties, the responsibility largely rests on the shoulders of teachers and researchers themselves. Human Rights researchers must be able to identify the means by which these objectives can be put into practice.
However, the cream of the intellectual bourgeoisie runs the system, controlled by the ruling class. Corruption becomes the main source of income for the new elites and through this mechanism university becomes a passport to the privileges.
In this context, active involvement of persons, groups, organizations and institutes is essential to ensure continuing progress in this direction. It is therefore essential that citizens are educated on Human Rights and fundamental freedom and commitment to respect such Rights and freedom in domestic legislation and international instrument to which they may be parties. More detailed knowledge of the national legislation and international instruments is rare in the general public. There is a void on how to use this legislation against violations of Human Rights and in defence of the dignity of man. Exactly because the current mechanism of appeal and protect are still weak and diffuse, there is a need to promote better knowledge of existing opportunities and create grassroots movement to extend them.

Development strategies

The horrified statistics about starvation, disease, illiteracy and absolute poverty bring to the fore that these questions constitute fundamentally important Human Rights issues, and that any comprehensive Human Rights programme which does not address such issues risks losing all credibility. Promoting Human Rights is both an instrument and a goal of development: in fact, every development strategy based on the denial of any one of these Rights is inconsistent with the concept of development and is bound to fail. Many historical experiences have already attested this fact. Consequently, three fundamental rules have to be kept in order to avoid any locking on of the development process:
  1. Realization of individuals potentialities in harmony with the community should be seen as the central purpose of development;
  2. Individuals shoud be regarded as subjects and not objects of the development process;
  3. Individuals must be able to fully participate into his/her own reality.
These rules are the main principles of a self reliant development strategy. Adoption of self reliant development would result in: Preliminary steps are necessary to achieve these results, aiming at redressing extreme inequalities, ensuring progress towards the satisfaction of certain minimum needs at individual, national and international levels: For this process to operate, all individuals, social groups and States must have three integrally interdependant accesses:

Challenge for mankind

We are discovering more and more that Human Rights situations have to be examined in their structural and global contexts, particularly in their international dimension. The facts are that domestic policies and practices of political and economic repression and discrimination, killings, torture, arbitrary arrests and detentions also contribute immensely to the suffering of people. We shoud avoid making error of attributing the violations and inadequate respect of Human Rights exclusively to international structure or external factors.
Of course the links between development, peace, security, disarmament and demilitarization are fundamental. Accordingly, development is also a matter of international concern, imposing obligation upon all States. Unfortunately we are still a long way off from such an ideal, in a world where the wealthy powers persist in treating the population of other countries as fair game and as vulgar supply of labour.
Third generation Rights, which include the right to development, the right to peace, to a healthy and ecologically balanced environment and the right to ownership of the common heritage of humanity, are grounded essentially on the notion of solidarity among people. Thus the sharing of responsibility or the obligations of solidarity acquire a central role in the development process.
Fundamental Human Rights, integration and development of those who live on the fringe of society is the cry of the hour. Fundamental Human Rights are understood here in their widest context, as civil and political rights and moreover as economic, social and cultural Rights.


* Dr. Balakrishna KURVEY is President of the INDIAN INSTITUTE FOR PEACE, DISARMAMENT AND ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION, 537 Sakkardara Road, Nagpur 440009, India.

REFERENCES

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL
Teaching and Learning about Human Rights, London
GRAVES N. et al.
Teaching for International Understanding Peace and Human Rights, UNESCO 1984
HUMAN RIGHTS TEACHING
Occasional papers, UNESCO, Paris
ISSUES IN GENDEN AND DEVELOPMENT
Asian and Pacific Development Centre N.6, April 1993
MALIK Charles
Man in the struggle for peace, Harper and Row, New York 1963
MALIK Charles
The Challenge of Human Rights, Canadian Association for Adult Education, Toronto 1994
MONTAGU A.
On being Human, Harthorn book, New York 1966
RAMCHARAN B.O.
Human Rights: Thirty Years after the Universal Declaration, Nijhaff, The Hague 1979
WILPF
Statement to the United Nationsd Commission on Human Rights on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, 1993

return to SUMMARY