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Our Economic World Order - an Ongoing Discrepancy Between Power and Wisdom

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“Our Economic World Order - an ongoing discrepancy between Power and Wisdom”

Observing the course of history, in regards to Human Rights and Development, and considering various statements by personages such as Peter Uvin and Amartya Sen, it is evident that the power play of the developed nations has had a decisive impact on the recognition and realization of Human Rights in Development, and the efficacy of Development in their regard.

Peter Uvin, in his work “Human Rights and Development”, drawing from the atrocities suffered by people in World War II, emphasized how, “economic development doesn’t automatically bring about peace and respect for human rights”. Thereafter, it seemed only natural that something needed to be undertaken in order to refrain from such cruelty to occur in the future. In fact in 1948, propelled by Eleanor Roosevelt ,the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (DHR) emerged, reflecting specific, inalienable rights all human beings possess by virtue of being human. However, the prevailing East-West conflict at the time, reflecting immensely distinctive approaches to rights and values, rendered the solidification of the DHR on a legal basis rather impossible. Without any obligation for implementation, it is no surprise then, that the influential nations, despite the wisdom they had acquired witnessing the effects of WWII, employed a purely economic growth based approach to development, entailing that an increase in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) would automatically result in a higher standard of living and therefore constitute Development. Economist Arthur Lewis, in his book “The theory of Economic Growth”, upholds this classical growth based model of development, to be ideal. He argues that, “growth requires a capitalist/ entrepreneurial class” - he likes to call the industrial bourgeoisie - “that can invest, create wealth, generate return, and expand more to create an industrial base” . This approach as supported by Lewis, and adopted by a vast majority of prosperous nations, may well find a positive grounding in the light of Economic Development alone but beyond the numeric value of GDP, its overall efficacy and the benefits generated to society are dubious and unclear.

This unilateral approach has immediately encountered critique by Marxists, and Anti-Colonialists, such as Egyptian Economist Samir Amin, who blamed „‚central’ capitalist economies for integrating transitional economies of the ‚periphery’ into the world market in ways that permanently favor the former“. The efficacy of the economic growth approach to development has further been defeated by Measures such as the ‘Gini-Ceoefficient’, which in this regard portrayed the inequality of income distribution within nations, revealing high inequality in wealth in several countries where the value of economic growth would have suggested a significant improvement in wealth. Economist and Nobel Prize winner, Amartya Sen reflects this discrepancy in the very first page of his publication “Development as Freedom”, by highlighting that “despite the increase in overall opulence, the contemporary world denies elementary freedoms to vast numbers – perhaps even the majority – of people”.

Consequentially, given the pressure and evidence speaking against this unilateral type of economic world governance, it became predominantly clear that to attain effective development an economic perspective would not suffice but a human aspect was needed as well. The change envisioned circulated around the recognition and realization of Human Rights in the Development strategy, employed by domineering nations. In 1970 The UN General Assembly recognized this need for unity in their ‚International Development Strategy Declaration’, wherein “the ultimate purpose of development is to provide increasing opportunities to all people for a better life. Thus, concluding that qualitative and structural changes in the society must go hand in hand with rapid economic growth ... requiring a unified approach”.

At this point it seems as one could no longer deny for a multi-dimensional approach to be adopted and in fact, a multitude of Rights based approaches, such as the Human Welfare Approach or the Basic Needs Approach, weighing on the provision of Economic, Social and Cultural rights, have emerged. Each addressing the challenges of development beyond a numeric value, rectifying the classical model in a way that take into account the criticism that came from the anti-colonial and anti-capitalist critique, creating promising Human Rights frameworks for development. Despite these realizations and a wide publicized need for a change in attitude in regards to the respect and realization of Human Rights in Development, which have been, in one way or another, adopted in to the procedural approaches of Governments and their judicial systems as well as Non Governmental Organizations (NGO’s) and other Institutions, the power play that domineered the world economy, in respect to its market strategies employed, still cannot be said to have ceased. If not on a global inter-state plane, the erosive force of power is further visible in the manner proceedings are handled by development agencies on the ground. In order to secure their agendas, these Institutions frequently keep a blind eye on the local dynamics of power and politics, whether they be respective of the rights owed to the people, or not. Peter Uvin is one of many who recognizes this attitude, framing it as “Voluntary Blindness to local dynamics of power, politics, violence, and exclusion”. NGO’s are equally affected as their frame of action to reveal or counteract human rights violations is similarly suppressed. In their regard however, sentiments of fear and insufficient security for their institutions as well as their employees pose the major hurdles to reveal, with all honesty, the gravity of the matter they are ought to investigate.

The final point I wish to address in regards to the overbearing power of developed nations on the third world is their perspective on what is required by the poor nations to attain a living standard of dignity. When Human Rights as defined by the DHR were split into two covenants in 1966, Civil and Political (CP) rights where divided from the, so-called ‘second generation’ of rights; Economic Social and Cultural (ESC) rights, such as the rights to education, adequate standard of living, and top attainable standard of health. Despite all rights remaining to be considered as indivisible and equally enforceable, the two covenants only came into legal force in 1976. Hence, ESC rights, which reflect the mainstream emphasis of developing nations, are often regarded as aspirational, and the obligational status for their realization vague. CP-rights on the other hand were already then officially recognized by the UN covenant on Civil and Political Rights and enforceable by law. It is hence no surprise that these are the rights focused on by the majority of prosperous nations’ governments as well as Human Rights organizations. This trend doesn’t appear to have changed much; especially given the prior discussed limitations International Development as well as Human Rights organizations face in Developing countries. In fact a survey conducted by the World Bank in 2000, interviewing over 60’000 poor people across the globe showed Poverty to be highly multidimensional and misconceived, concluding that “poverty as defined by the poor reaches spheres beyond low income, including lack of access to health and education, vulnerability, voicelessness and powerlessness.” This poses another major barrier to realizing effective development inclusive of Human Rights, as the decisive forces, acting along the lines of economic development, often do not recognize the needs prioritized by the local community. This approach undermines the Capabilities of freedom, choice, and participation in the development process, the nationals of developing nations are ought to hold as mandated by the norms of Human development and reflected by Sen’s identification of poverty in terms of capability deprivation.

Regarding the various deprivations of rights and resulting major inefficiencies in regards to the development goals to be attained it seems clear that to realize effective Development in a Human Rights framework we need to consider Economic- as well as Human Development alike, or as Uvin puts it: “ All worthwhile processes of social change are simultaneously rights based and economically grounded”. In this regard Sen agrees, recognizing income to be a significant instrument in combating poverty, as a lack of it “can be a principal reason for a person’s capability deprivation”. However valid these realization may be it is best visualized using Hans Rosling’s “Gap Minder Approach” where he brakes down the factors of Development into Goals and Means. His model places Human rights as the ultimate goal, but moreover highlights that GDP is an essential part of the mechanism, which however shouldn’t be regarded as the goal but rather the indispensable means to attain development. Hence, the discrepancy between power and wisdom that is reflected in a multitude of developmental operations to date, can in essence become a synergy if they operate on the two opposite sides of the process-spectrum as proposed by Rosling, advocated by Sen and confirmed by Uvin’s assertion that “the process by which development aims are achieved is as important as the actual products”.

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Bibliography:

* Peter Uvin „Human Rights and Development“ - Kumarian Press Inc. 2004

* Amartya Sen, „Development as Freedom“ - Oxford University Press 1999

* UN General Assembly 1970 - 2626 (XXV) International Development Strategy for the second United Nation Development Decade - http://www.eytv4scf.net/a25r2626.htm

* Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948

* Arthur Lewis „The Theory of Economic Growth“ 1955

* World Bank, Survey „Voices of the Poor“ 2000
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--------------------------------------------
[ 1 ]. Peter Uvin „Human Rights and Development“ 2004 p.9
[ 2 ]. Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948
[ 3 ]. Arthur Lewis „The Theory of Economic Growth“ 1955
[ 4 ]. Samir Amin, Underdevelopment and Dependence in Black Africa: Historical Origin http://jpr.sagepub.com/content/9/2/105.abstract
[ 5 ]. Amartya Sen, „Development as Freedom“ 1999, p.3
[ 6 ]. UN General Assembly 1970 - 2626 (XXV) International Development Strategy for the second United Nation Development Decade - http://www.eytv4scf.net/a25r2626.htm
[ 7 ]. Peter Uvin „Human Rights and Development“ 2004 p.2
[ 8 ]. Peter Uvin „Human Rights and Development“ 2004 p.10
[ 9 ]. World Bank, Survey „Voices of the Poor“ 2000
[ 10 ]. Amartya Sen, „Development as Freedom“ 1999, p.87
[ 11 ]. Peter Uvin „Human Rights and Development“ 2004, p.122
[ 12 ]. Amartya Sen, „Development as Freedom“ 1999, p.87
[ 13 ]. Peter Uvin „Human Rights and Development“ 2004p.123

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