Cohen’s focal point seems poverty and deprivation of economic, social, and cultural rights. And meeting these rights could empower destitute to claim their rights. However, in the context of very poor country like Bangladesh, it is acceptable.
Today’s RBA came into existence during the passage of time from 1940s to now on through the formation and grown up of UN. From the following table we can have a quick journey into the history of RBA.
Table : History of rights-based approach[i]
In 1986, the declaration on right to development was an attempt to emphasize development as right. Right to peace, environment, and development are known as third generation rights whereas CP rights belong to first generation and ESC rights are the second generation. Right to development is not alienable from main stream rights. The Declaration reflects the aims of “constant improvement of well-being of the entire population and of all individuals on the basis of their active, free and meaningful participation in development.” According to Article 8, “equality of opportunity for all in their access to basic resources, education, health services, food, housing, employment and fair distribution of income”. This article supports the argument for “fundamental rights” that is drawn in this paper for adequate standard of life.
Right to development declaration is not legally binding and failed to get attention of the western wealthy states because of strategic reasons. According to Nyamu-Musembi & Cornwall, right to development “emphasizes a collective duty of all states to eliminate barriers such as unfair trade rules and debt burden, effectively pointing an accusing finger at the industrial countries. For this reason it has been opposed by Western states (2004: 8, cited in Ahsan, 2006).” In the AOA, and trade liberalization section we have found how these trade agreements have been exploiting developing countries and creating food insecurity. The failure of “right to development” reminds us about the power and intention of rich countries and their influence within UN system.
In 1993, Vienna conference affirmed the indivisibility of human rights and development. It was recognized in the conference that democracy, development, and human rights are interdependent and interlinked. In 1995, World Summit for Social Development in Copenhagen came up with the mantra that the ultimate goal of social development is to improve and enhance the quality of life of all people. Social development encounters problems including poverty, unemployment, and social disintegration. The summit urges to reduce sources of distress and instability from families and societies, and social development can be achieved by enhancing well-being of people.
Later on economic development thinking moved towards people centered development, which is aligned with UNDP’s latest version of “human development” that is in line with Sen’s “Development as freedom”. Human development is a process of enlarging people’s choice by expanding capabilities. According to HDR (2000), it focuses on progress of human lives and well-being. Well-being includes living with substantial freedoms. Human development enhances capabilities. According to HDR, capabilities include,
the basic freedoms of being able to meet bodily requirements, such as the ability to avoid starvation and undernourishment, or to escape preventable morbidity or premature mortality. They also include the enabling opportunities given by schooling, for example, or by the liberty and the economic means to move freely and to choose one’s abode. (2000, p 19).
While human rights guarantee freedom by legal protection and moral obligations, human development enhances capabilities to ensure freedom. Both has same destination but through different agenda for development. According to Theis (2004: 11) the growing popularity by UN agencies, INGOs, and some western governments to adopt RBA is because, “…together, human rights and development are more effective than either one on its own. ” RBA depends much more on international legal standards. The biggest challenge of RBA is the “realization” and “enforcement” of these standards. It is also difficult to pursue governments to ratify human rights treaties. Though the treaties are ratified; it is difficult to hold government accountable to fulfill her obligations. However, we are not digging into the issues of constraints and of difficulties to promote human rights here.
[ii] Britt Kalla (2006) noted Arjun Sengupta’s argument, which says economic growth can be accompanied by augmented inequalities or disparities and rising concentrations of wealth and economic power as well as the ignoring of human rights standards relating to economic, social and cultural (ESC) but also civil and political (CP) rights.