Human Rights Based Approach and pitfalls on its pathway

Human Rights Based Approach (HRBA) came through paradigm shift after decline of charity based development interventions. Charity based development has had clear mission to help distressed people at developing and underdeveloped countries with food, grains of wheat or rice, shelter, cloths, family planning help, books and pencils, tube well, sanitation, cows, goats etc., in fact, supporting disadvantaged people with relief goods and survival kits. Charity organizations and donor agencies accumulated money and goods from citizens of rich and wealthy nations and gave that to the people of miserable nations somewhere in Asia, Africa and Latin America. The equation was simple like taking help from the people ‘who have’ and then assisting people ‘who do not have’. We have watched 60s, 70s and 80s development in “Eastman Color” where development assistance had been triggered out of sympathy. This ‘sympathy’ is a human behavior originated from human emotion and there is nothing wrong about such emotional act. There are rich and well off class within every miserable nation where they out of same emotion sometimes do help poor and vulnerable class; though sometimes their charity activity is fueled by God’s fear. However, God-fearing and emotional charity based development paradigm had been shifted to HRBA during 90s and on. 

It was already too late for HRBA to appear in the later part of 90s because UDHR came into this world on 1948. Then there were series of conventions and treaties; civil and political rights came along the way for political empowerment of people in miserable nations and for protecting their civil rights. During 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s most of the ‘miserable nations’ in the so-called second and third world were either ruled by military or by authoritarian autocrat. They governed keeping people at their gun point; these mischievous leaders with their families led happy lives accumulating mountainous wealth suppressing people’s freedom of expression and exploiting people’s resources as well as entitlements. Thus, ‘human rights talk’ was very much irritating for these leaders and more precisely agreeing with convention on civil and political rights was almost suicidal for them. Leaving power in the hand of people means leaving control over resources and losing pleasures, which was unacceptable to these leaders and their autocratic regime either ended by rebellion or by people’s movement. Western democracy has so far expanded in all direction on the planet but till date civil and political rights are not adequately translated into the state machine of these ‘miserable nations’.

Economic, social and cultural rights, on the other hand, came into light through continuous lobby and advocacy of socialist countries at United Nations, which promoted economic development, social development and more importantly people-cantered development. While European group was more concerned with political freedom of people, socialist group’s concern was freeing people from poverty and hunger. However, many socialist countries failed to incorporate economic and social rights into national legislation and eventually failed to protect people’s economic and social rights. There are significant dropout of students from primary and high schools in India despite ‘right to education’ is protected by law. And many countries are afraid to enact ‘right to food’ law fearing  once the law is enacted there would be hundreds and thousands of cases in the court. 

Right to development declaration on 1986 was another impulse from southern developing nations to recognize development as right. However, it had been difficult to agree on this declaration by the well off western nations and poor southern nations, and thus, the declaration did not appear as treaty or legally binding document. Then Amartya Sen came on the floor of UN with the idea of ‘human development index’ based on his ‘human capability’ theory and range of researches on poverty, hunger, justice, and human rights. He is standing out of the crowd of economists in the world who sees development using human rights lens. It happens probably because he witnessed ‘Bengal famine’ on 1943; thus, he could feel that it’s not only availability of food at the national reservoir but also accessibility and distributive justice of food that could potentially stop famine and hunger; and institutional framework may not guarantee justice unless and until ‘morale of the society’ complement such institutions. Hence, he complements HRBA to take humanity to the next level. 

Range of international laws had been produced along with forming treaty bodies to promote and protect human rights across the world. And HRBA built on these international laws has become the engine of many development agencies. It seemingly appears that ‘miserable nations’ still fail to adapt all these international laws at their national legislation to protect and promote human rights for her citizens. Though some international human rights standards are interpreted into national laws, poor and vulnerable people are not able to reach to the door of institutional justice because everyone knows that it’s an expensive process. If some legal aiding organizations bear expenses, only then landless people can reach up to the door of court for claiming their ‘right to land’. Well it is impossible and mountainous task for legal aid organizations to bear expenses of tens and millions of vulnerable people. So, back to Sen’s ‘The idea of justice’ that we need morale of entire society complementing institutional justice. And when it comes to morale of a society, skeptics may label it as ‘the idea of Utopian’. 

Pitfalls on the pathway of HRBA is lack of ‘morale’ of the society besides lack of institutional framework, lack of political will, lack of bilateral and multilateral donor conditions,and  lack of good people in governance for operationalisation of HRBA. We observed how powerful policy conditions of World Bank, IMF, WTO and other international financial institutions had been in the 60s to 80s, which caused structural adjustment programs and eventually created negative consequences in the lives of people living in underdeveloped nations. A question may raise why donors addressing social justice and human rights are not imposing policy conditions on ‘miserable nations’ for the greater good of the society. Such ‘positive policy conditions’ would be highly appreciated by the poor and vulnerable people living in injustice at the darkest corner on planet earth. Though ‘miserable nations’ legally agree with the range of international laws on human rights, they are not yet morally ready to operationalise it across their territories. (To be continued…)


Why Freirean pedagogy appeared threat to structural mind

Paoulo Freire, a great thinker, a philosopher, and a great analytic in the human history who had spotted light deeper into the realm of struggling society’s subconsciousness. Let us romanticize a bit his pioneering framework of ‘oppressor and the oppressed’ and ‘banking education’; he used these lens to scan and detect flaws in the very fabric of miserable societies. What we call inequity, injustice, violation of human rights, deprivation, cruel and inhuman treatment, degradation of human values, and humanitarian and human rights crisis using our contemporary lens; Freire found these loopholes in the covenant on the ‘pedagogy of the oppressed’.

He found contradiction in the relations between ruler-ruled, governor-governed, landlord-bonded farmers, teachers-students, employer-employee, parents-children, men-women and master-slave what we today call ‘power relation’. Culture of silence prevail when these relations are exploitative so as manipulative; landlord would ruthlessly whip farmers like bonded labor and teachers would deposit information at students’ brain considering as if students are filthy creatures know nothing and their brains are worse than empty trash. And profound absence of dialogical process plants the seeds of ‘culture of silence’. Such an oppressive framework would form a society where teachers and other head of institutions would preach their teachings, however, students listen without questioning. Similarly, it is sin for farmers when asking question why they are being paid lesser than what they deserve. It is a punishable offence, if students want to have dialogue with teachers about their ideas so as understanding. The purpose of these one-way education is to generate graduate who could comply and fit into oppressors’ institutional structure, mandate, and policy conditions.

This great thinker used symbolism, imagery and metaphor to tell the tale of pedagogy. He struggled all his life; as a child despite belonging to a middle class family fell into hunger and food insecurity because there was severe shortage of food in Brazil; despite having enormousness of natural resources, the country fell into hunger. Later he was jailed by Brazilian government for his outstanding work to teach Brazilian farmers on how to read and after that he was finally exiled from the country. He was hardly recognized by mainstream global academic community for his extraordinary work, such as, PhD students on ‘literacy, politics and policies’ of reputed universities may not need to read and critique his work.

Starting from autocratic government to academic institutions Freire’s pedagogy had become a threat. Renowned development workers also sidelined him by tons of PRA tools. He envisioned to transform oppressor and oppressed into enlightened being who would be working side by side to build and sustain a humane society. The permanence of such humane society would come through mass conscience and its a transcendental process. All the religious doctrine preach to build such a society where heaven would be at the state of permanence. Some may criticize him as utopian and there is nothing wrong to be an idealist but why his pedagogy threatened some minds.

Most probably he went too far pulling out ‘duality’ of ‘oppressor-oppressed’ from human subconsciousness, breaking down the ego silos, and raising conscience from and within human heart, practicing more and more values like love, trust, respect, not just pretending to be humanitarian rather becoming humane. He has crossed the line and wanted practitioners to act like super heroes to bring heaven on earth; but we, the timid human beings, want to live in vivid reality of sufferings and do not want to cross the line and break the wall, because we do not want ‘freedom’, because freedom comes through liberty and to gain liberty one needs to sacrifice sense of security and comfort from a materialistic perspective. In one hand, we do not want to risk whatever pleasures we have, on the other hand, we do not know what liberty looks like or how it feels alike; as Hegel confirms, “It is solely by risking life that freedom is obtained”.

We know what he said and we know too why we are afraid risking our lives for freedom, thus, it is better to live as egotistical and selfish, and to say he went too far and crossed the line that threatened our existence for the sake of liberty. Pink Floyd’s metaphor ‘another brick in the wall’ depicts the notion of banking education where teachers ridicule students’ creativity and oppress them from becoming free-thinker.

Connecting dots between earthquake fatalities and corrupt building practices

According to ScienceDaily,

A new assessment of global earthquake fatalities over the past three decades indicates that 83 percent of all deaths caused by the collapse of buildings during earthquakes occurred in countries considered to be unusually corrupt.

The assessment authored by Professor Nicholas Ambraseys of the Imperial College of London and Professor Roger Bilham of the University Colorado at Boulder provides example, a 7 magnitude earthquake in New Zealand in 2010 has had zero fatalities while Haiti quake in the same year of same magnitude has had fatalities of apocalyptic proportion; 2,30000 died and 2 million were displaced. On the other hand, Christchurch with population of 372,000 survived without fatalities. These comparative facts convince us without much effort that chance of ‘fatalities’ is much higher due to earthquake at corrupt territories.

8.8 magnitude of Chile quake in 2010, which is 500 times stronger than that of Haiti, caused around 795 deaths and damage partly because of Tsunami. 9 magnitude of Japan quake in 2011 caused around eighteen thousand dead and mostly fatalities were resulted due to Tsunami. In 2004, Sumatra-Andaman quake of 9.1 magnitude killed 227,898 people, which was caused apparently by disastrous Tsunami. Apart from Tsunami, fatalities out of earthquake are much lesser in the context of Chile and Japan despite 9 magnitude shaking. According to corruption perceptions Index 2011, Japan scores 8 with rank 14, Chile scores 7.2 securing rank 22, New Zealand tops the list with a score 9.5, Haiti is in the bottom section of the list scoring 1.8 and ranking 175. In the measurement scale 0 means highly corrupt and 10 means the country is very clean. Here, we can see clear connection between country’s corruption status and collapsing buildings caused by earthquake. More precisely death list of Haiti in 2010 quake was longer because of wide-spread corruption in building practices.

Population density is also an issue besides vulnerability of building, but why always this population density is higher in corrupt nations comparing almost close to ‘zero population growth’ in developed nations, is another pressing question that needs further investigation.

Many of us might have a perception that earth is a nice planet having human species and not a rough one and frequent earthquakes are today leading to challenging situation for human survival, and the quakes are not supposed to happen often; but USGS estimates that several million earthquakes are triggered across the world each year. This agency publishes data of around 14,500 earthquakes worldwide; and the criteria is, the magnitude needs to be higher than 4.5 for worldwide publication. People usually get news about 12 to 18 out of several million quakes due to overwhelming media coverage, which contain magnitude 7 or more per year. Thus, continuously occurring lower magnitude tremors usually go unnoticed and much higher magnitude quakes at remote areas with less or no population do not get media attention as well as coverage.

If we look at South Asia, according to corruption perceptions index, India scores 3.1 and ranks 95, Pakistan scores 2.5 and ranks 134, Nepal scores 2.2 and ranks 154, Sri Lanka scores 3.3 and ranks 86, Afghanistan scores 1.5 and ranks 180, Maldives score 2.5 and rank 134, and Bangladesh scores 2.7 and ranks 120. Only Bhutan appears moderately clean country in the region scoring 5.7 and ranking 38. Hence, connecting the dots, it could be said that impact of higher magnitude earthquakes similar to what had hit in Japan, New Zealand, Chile and Haiti, could bring catastrophic consequences in this region having remarkably denser population due to collapse of hundreds and thousands , if not millions, of corruptly built structures. Why density of population is lesser in relatively cleaner country Bhutan, I haven’t got the answer yet.

Green economy another buzzwords or green greed or what

Lots of tall talks are going on around ‘green economy’; earth summit 2012 is about to launch the term in global platform. In this sacred ceremonial the event is attracting range of stakeholders from government, civil societies, and both for profit as well as non-profit entities. They call it global transition to a better world that will maximize well-being and better coping or adapting to environmental changes. This brand new economy may promote alternative model of sustainable development to societies across the world on the basis of three pillars such as social, environmental and economic. Actors joining this ceremony will be awash by green thoughts and back home to hold pillars of this new model. They will be building capacity, coalition, and forums based on the new economic foundation.  The advocates of green economy have learned from the past mistakes that the brown economy had danced to a different tune and could not fulfill the goal for environmental protection and human development.

Lucid dream out of green chaos is to see people on this planet living happy lives. They have lately recognized that GDP growth is a perverse idea because it could not reduce inequality or poverty. This new economic model is assumed to have all in one package available from one stop services, which could be accessible by visa card or MasterCard or even by PayPal account. New green deal offers low-carbon energy appliances, ‘carbon army’, packages of financial innovations, re-regulation of financial system and breaking up discredited ones. It offers safety nets to vulnerable but condition applies whether carbon taxes and revenues from carbon trading are in place. There is an overwhelming message along with the package offer that business as it is today will end up in catastrophic consequences, thus, we need to focus on ‘humane’ model that would make sure justice over natural resources and protect bio-diversity. They promise more and more skills, jobs, technologies, poverty free green societies, and sustainable development built on three pillars.

On the other side of this ‘new deal’, another group of activists is alarming people most particularly marginalized and farmers communities not to step into this new deal of green economy, as Christophe warns there may be, ”…an offensive to create new sources of profit and growth through the “Green Economy” agenda.” Alarm notes also include that Rio 1992 privileged industrialist nations and corporations with intellectual property rights over seeds and genetic resources. It assumed that this time Rio is going to put price tag on services and products that come from biodiversity and ecosystem. This group of activists is calling it “green capitalism”, which has a clear intention to introduce monetary value over services that we get free from nature coining the term ‘biodiversity conservation’, ‘climate regulation’ etc. Structural adjustment similar to 80s may haunt green economy to transform developing countries’ rich biodiversity into commodity. The euphoria of green economy appears to consider all problems on its way like climate crisis, inequality, poverty, failed state, jobless people, mad cows, pirates, bird flues, corrupt governance  as consequences of  ‘market failure’ and a new formula for ‘solution to all problems’ could be provided through green market.

Widely known  arguments seemingly fail to convince international community anymore such as equitable distribution of wealth could reduce inequality and injustice, capability enhancement is the key to human development, egalitarian society could sustain peace and harmony, and sate parties must guarantee human rights to her citizens and rights are not commodities within a territory. Thus, tagging the idea of sustainable development into green economy by manipulating human crisis in the face of climate change, securing green deal with bit of manoeuvring, leveling barcode on natural offerings, abusing intellects to produce tons of papers in favor of such green business, and attracting overenthusiastic delegates from developing countries in this ceremony and use them to hold the pillars of green trade would end in mess. There is no trade-off between trade and justice.

Weapons of Mass Values (WMV)

Credit: theasiandefence

There is a ‘outrageous scandal’ that half of the world’s poor live in South Asia. It’s not exciting to live in such a region where poverty has devoured the land despite having wealth of natural resources. Inequitable development, high concentration of wealth and power to minority elites, unequal  distribution of resources and opportunities, brain draining, rationalizing corruption at all layers of society, unhealthy competition and lust for power have infected the very essence of humane progress in the region resulting millions of poor fighting over limited resources on the street. On the other side, in the garden of Eden, few elites by exploiting political capital rejoicing life and having amusement abusing their slaves.

According to World Bank,

The prevalence of underweight children in India is among the highest in the world, and is nearly double that of Sub-Saharan Africa. 71% infant mortality rate per 1000 live births in Pakistan and 40% people living below poverty line in Bangladesh.

Government and non government actors talked loud on eradicating poverty, though economic indicator has gone little high in the last couple of years, achievement is not worth for appreciation. Though sometimes, it had been observed that imperial and colonial masters had appreciated economic success in the region but that does not really mean significant improvement of mass life and livelihoods. Impressive financial growth in the recent years does not really shed light on lack of quality lives for ordinary citizens.

Most importantly, unequal access to public services, natural resources, and opportunities have created unjust land of income disparities and safe heaven for corrupt people. The new dimension of ‘political economy’ based on criminal acts and corruption has generated a group of beneficiaries who are within the circle of power as well as benefits. And the rest millions outside the garden of Eden living miserably despair for food, shelter and employment just to make sure their existence. A little possibility might be through nepotism and favoritism, but to become blessed by nepotism, one needs to get through ‘culture of sycophancy’. Therefore, there is a need to awaken mass people on values for building a social system that should be based on grace, respect, hard work, ethics, dignity and conscience and eventually shining light upon the dark region. And rewarding citizens who deserve it than feeding worthless, dumb and corrupt at decisive roles.

According to  Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI),

India was the world’s largest recipient of arms, accounting for 10 per cent of global arms imports. The four next largest recipients of arms in 2007–2011 were South Korea (6 per cent of arms transfers), Pakistan (5 per cent), China (5 per cent) and Singapore (4 per cent).

Out of top five arms importers, two countries are from South Asia including first place. South Asian may not feel that much proud visualizing the grim pictures of child mortality, despair of unemployment among low-income group, suicidal farmers, once happy village families crumbling around in the urban slums, women and children with begging bowl in the traffic signals, food adulteration and mass poisoning  through food substance, sign of sick and crippled generation ahead and millions other at the ‘nothing to lose’ mode in the face of drought, cyclone and disasters.

It could haunt any person with little conscience that such a big chunk of money is supposed to spend for changing fate of these helpless citizens than accumulating weapons of mass destruction. Starting from cold era’s superpower theme to warming era’s WMD, it is so ominous that someone does not want us to live in peace, harmony and bliss creating a symphony. On the contrary, someone empowers and encourages vengeance to carry on arms race, conflict and wars, famine and hunger, child labor, unethical business through poisoning foods and agricultural products, anguish, anger, suicidal blasts and mass abuse by ruthless corrupt. We need to revolutionize ‘weapons of mass values’ and prove that human civilization can be ruled from ‘humane’; at least prove it before the world comes to an end.

Dar es Salaam Declaration: no need to play hide and seek with public

Making national budget public is the only road ahead available for those territories who have played hide and seek with their citizens for decades. Greater inclusive budgetary process and relationship of accountability between government, civil societies and citizens is the only way forward to clear the mess that had been accumulated till date. The idea of considering citizens as passive receiver of relief goods and few kilograms of wheat or rice may become obsolete sooner or later. Considering citizens poor or stupid, who could be convinced by false promises and who could bow with begging bowl loyalty,  may not work at this transcendental age. It’s not really the time to bow for his/her excellency with no apparent improvement for the societies, its time for justice and accountability.

According to Dar es Salaam Declaration, “We are citizens and civil society organizations from around the globe, united by the shared conviction that inclusive and open public budgets are critical to achieving a world in which all human beings enjoy their full human rights – civil, political, social, economic, cultural and environmental.” It had been found that civil society engagement in the budgetary process could truly improve the outcome as well as lives of people. Public budget is all about public asset, thus, its fundamental right and responsibility of people to take part in this process. Budget should tell us about social equity and empowerment not just giving away few kilograms of wheat or rice to the begging bowl.

It is often observed in the miserable nations that most marginalized are excluded participating from budgetary process, and sometime able civil societies do not have access or influence over the process. Hence, public budget must be transparent, inclusive, effective, equitable and accurate; most importantly there should be monitoring mechanism so as accountability by  audit institutions, media and citizens. According to International Budget Partnership (IBP), a global research and advocacy program,

If you want to fight poverty, you need to care about government budgets. As the specific plans for how public funds will be raised and spent, budgets are the government’s most powerful tool to meet the needs and priorities of a country and its people.

Open Budget Partnership released Open Budget Survey 2010, and according to this report 74 of the 94 countries assessed fail to meet basic standards of transparency and accountability with national budgets, which means these countries have had doors open for abuse, corruption and reckless use of public money. Poor transparency and accountability in government spending really matters and it indicates what extent a country is submerged in greed so as corruption.

However, according to the survey, in South Asia, out of 100 India scored 67 so as Sri Lanka, Bangladesh 48, Nepal 45, Pakistan 38 and Afghanistan 21. Therefore, Bangladesh provides some information to public in its budget documents during the year, India provides significant information to the public, and Afghanistan provide minimal information to the public. Countries providing extensive budget information are South Africa, New Zealand, United Kingdom, France, Norway, Sweden, and the United States. The worst performers providing little or no information on public money include China, Saudi Arabia, Equatorial Guinea, Senegal, and Iraq.

The paradigm of hides and seek play with budget process and keeping public in dark on spending their money seemingly appears obsolete because media, civil society and citizens across the globe are revolutionizing ‘participatory, accountable and transparent budgetary process’. Governments need to understand such change and should publish online all the budget information and should meet other requirements of international standards besides ensuring meaningful public participation in the budget process.

A movement gets momentum on its own, it has a reason!

Photo credit: Deccan Chronicle

I would love to echo Mario Osava’s words, “The environmental movement won the ideological battle with the growth of awareness on climate change. Environmentalists are no longer seen as “loonies” or granola-eating hippies: the people seen as on the fringe”. Erratic weather, flash floods, overflowing rivers, dyke bursts, extreme heat and drought, cold waves, sea level rise and so on are not anymore text-book contents or hypothesis of environmentalists. These are felt by ordinary people at every corner on the planet.  ‘Extreme weather event’ is seemingly a polite word and sooner we may have to hear words like ‘catastrophe’, ‘deluge’ and disaster at apocalyptic proportion.

Kyoto Protocol fails, international convention on climate change got stuck on the table due to lack of consensus among all parties, a legally binding document on such convention failed all the way from Copenhagen to Durban, which reminds us that consensus is hard to make in the present world divided much on economic interest. More and more emerging polluters are joining age-old polluters in terms of carbon emission to raise their economy and to become enlisted as top ranked developed nations. Emitters – colonial, imperial and booming altogether racing against time to make money. The race goes on despite recession, widespread unemployment, occupy Wall Street, smoky china and oil spill all over the coast line. Financial greed is so apparent and unstoppable , thus, it may seem insurmountable to reach consensus on climate treaty; but the climate justice movement has unprecedented momentum due to its very appeal to convince mass people across the glove because the real-time disasters are felt by ordinary people because life and livelihoods of billions of ordinary people is on the edge because ordinary people are the mass citizens elsewhere in the world who are left vulnerable so as abandoned in the face of catastrophe.

Curbing global emission is not achievable at the moment or at near future as promised. Adaptation fund  probably would be disappointing for affected nations one way or the other. Fund channeling through multilateral agencies and banks could end up imposing policy conditions, the same old game, or could transform vulnerable people to a more desperate defaulter of loan. Least developed countries had been found deliberately ignorant about local needs and wants, which is a common phenomenon and because of that local communities stay underdeveloped. Faster disbursement of adaptation fund from central government to local community is the hardest hurdle unless there is a political will and until they are enlightened.

As it always happens in the human history, vulnerable communities, the children of men, on the ground along with their women and children are supposed to live in knee-deep water with despair for food and shelter. Climate justice movement accelerating outside the ‘plenary session’ and far away from the convention center, irrespective of the outcome of treaties, ratification status, translation into national legislation and so on,  telling us stories of the affected people irrespective of caste, color, religion, race etc. and pursue us to build consensus among the billions of ordinary people to become resilient in the face of climate adversaries. A band of humanitarian activists transferring adaptation knowledge and techniques into communities beside enhancing local and indigenous practices.  The show must go on and the ‘humane’ movement gets momentum from and within humanity because it has reason to uphold human dignity because the movement does not want to let you down as ordinary people in the face of climate adversaries.