Food For An Interfering Thought

Development respects human rightsHuman Rights: Food for an interfering thought
Human Rights Reader 404

BUSINESSES DO NOT PLAY A ‘CRITICAL ROLE’, AND CALLING ON THEM TO ENGAGE AS EQUAL PARTNERS IN A HUMAN RIGHTS-BASED DEVELOPMENT PROCESS, IS NOT CALLED FOR.

Innovation is not a prerogative of the private sector.

1. More and more, we are seeing a process of outsourcing the international development agenda. The current trade and investment regimes are already favoring wealthy countries and corporations. And where has this led us? To the balance already being outrageously skewed in favor of private interests. (Look at WHO’s financing, for instance).

2. In this Reader, I have more questions than I have answers:

What track record do businesses really have for being part of the solution?
• What is the incentive for Trans-National Corporations (TNCs) to exert their enormous power and influence in any way beyond maintaining the status-quo that has delivered so many benefits to them? So, Who benefits from the current state of affairs?:
o The gargantuan pharmaceutical and food and beverages industry, intent on protecting their profits?
o Governments that now are increasingly elected on the back of private election finance?
• Does all this imply that the incentive structure only operates in one direction –not the human rights direction?
• Is the assumption such that we should have less confidence in the aptitudes of the public sector, so that it must do more to operate on business terms? …even when those are the same terms that have led to the current highly inequitable, unsustainable, human rights-violating patterns of development?

3. Since public and private incentives are currently so poorly aligned (a marriage in hell?), it is hard to imagine how public entities operating more and more along private lines will keep up with their primary public responsibilities, including as the main duty bearers for protecting sustainability, inclusiveness and human rights (HR). The question really is:
o At what point should projects vital to human and environmental wellbeing happen regardless of a business take on the issue?

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Civil Society—More vital than ever

Our world is buffeted by tectonic political shifts and huge uncertainty—ranging from a potentially unravelling Europe, a Trump presidency, and populist/fundamentalist crusades under various guises. It is a politics born from grotesque and unprecedented levels of inequality that deprive people of dignity and capabilities.

Post-World-War-Two institutions that have underpinned a period of relative global stability patently need reform—particularly if they are to regain and inspire much needed public confidence and trust. We need strong institutions to promote and protect the principles and values enshrined in the United Nations Charter—among them faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, and better standards of life in larger freedom.

I am convinced that more than ever we need progressive civic organizations and associations to educate and remind leaders, states and the public of those principles and values, to provide the political incentives that encourage them to govern according to those principles and to hold leaders to account where they fail to do so. It is in this context that our Comment in Globalization and Health argues that we need to appreciate, support and resource civil society to ensure that the ambitious health targets in Agenda 2030 are realized for all.

@kentbuse,*  UNAIDS

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