Has Development Entered a Post-Human Rights Era? Reuniting the Generations of Human Rights for Sustainable Development.

Tuesday, 12 July 2016: 15:15
Location: Hörsaal III (Neues Institutsgebäude (NIG))
Oral Presentation
Su-ming KHOO, National University of Ireland, Galway, Ireland
Chiara COSTANZO, National University of Ireland Galway, Ireland
Since the 1990s, development research, policy and practice has embraced a human rights agenda. Many attempts have been made to inform development with human rights concerns, align development agendas with human rights frameworks and integrate human rights in practice via the adoption of ‘rights based approaches’ to development.

Yet, recent research suggests that human rights has lost traction in the post-2015 development consensus (Brolan et al 2015). This is worrying, given that these findings were for health rights, arguably the most advanced domain of rights in practice, and a fundamental underpinning for global struggles for health justice. Expanding the humanitarian relief agenda may meet immediate human needs where development has failed, but has the development community left human rights behind as a project and a principle?

We confront the possibility that development has entered a post-human rights era, and consider the possibility of rediscovering and rehabilitating human rights within the sustainable development agenda, as well as the major challenges and barriers to doing this. Responding to a fundamental provocation for human rights to move from victims’ justice to survivors’ justice (Mamdani 2014), a rights-based development agenda involves three elements: deeper democratization of development processes, incorporation of environmental principles into human rights and development of concrete arrangements for harm reparation and benefit sharing. This re-aligns the elements of participation, benefit-sharing and environmental protection, which have evolved along divergent paths. We argue that the time has come to reunite the ‘generations’ of negative, positive and collective rights in the pursuit of sustainable development. The liberty to demand rights and equity in enjoyment of rights must be complemented with a commitment to solidarity, understood as common, but differentiated responsibilities to re-distribute power and resources required for sustainable development to become inclusive and non-discriminatory, while remaining within ‘safe spaces’ of ecological and social survival.