Rights Tools for Sustainable Development
Workshop on using human rights strategies and mechanisms to support
Development and Environment objectives in International Trade
Tentative Date of the Workshop- 23.06.2008 to 28.06.2008
Venue: Department of Political Science, Presidency College, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India
Funding Agency- University Grants Commission (UGC), New Delhi
Contact Person- Dr.V.N.Viswanathan
Workshop Director, Department of Political
In the concept of sustainable development, human rights and wise management of natural resources and environmental protection merge. From a human rights point of view, the concept includes both the economic. social and cultural rights -the "right to development" in a broad sense -and the obligation towards future generations to use the resources sensibly to ensure their human rights. In the perspective of sustainable development, the emphasis is both on the right to use resources today, but equally as much on the obligation to exploit resources sensibly -as a means of meeting basic needs for all.
The objective of sustainable development presents us with a double moral challenge: solidarity with the poor people of today’s world, and solidarity with the next generation. "Inter generational equity" is one legal expression of the idea behind "sustainable development". This adds a very important dimension to the traditional thinking about human rights as expressed in the Human rights Covenants of 1966.
The objective of sustainable development received broad political support the Rio Conference. It is now moving into legal texts. It is, in different forms, already included in several international treaties and in national legislation. For example, in both Norway and Denmark the objective has been included in the objects clause of important new laws concerning natural resources and the environment. Hence, it is rapidly developing from a primarily political objective to a legal concept. This may have interesting consequences also from the point of view of individuals rights,
On the other hand, there has been a positive - although slow - development in the field of human rights in many parts of the world. In a number of states, gross violations of even the most "basic" civil and political human rights are still common, and in the poorest countries of the world the fulfilment of the economic, social and cultural rights seems further away than ever before. But there are also positive trends, linked partly to the process of democratisation in many developing countries, and partly to the growing respect of many states for the decisions and recommendations of international human rights institutions. The fact that the human rights concept has been broadened and become more vague does not seem to have influenced this trend in a very negative way.
Human rights and sustainable human development are inextricably linked, complementary and multidimensional. A fundamental human freedom is the freedom from want. Poverty is a human rights violation, and freedom from poverty is an integral and inalienable human right. Five existing international norms are especially relevant for addressing controversies embracing the convergence of human rights, economic development and environmental protection. These norms are: 1) self-determination; 2) permanent sovereignty over natural resources; 3) the right to development; 4) the right to environment; and, 5) participation. Of these, the international community in general acknowledges only self-determination and permanent sovereignty over natural resources as forming part of customary international law and specifically of international human rights law.
There is considerable international support for the proposition that the right to participation, the right to development, and the right to environment are also international norms within the context of human rights law. This support is evidenced through the practices of nation states, declarations, resolutions and other official acts of organs of the United Nations, as well as research undertaken by international law scholars. The right to development can also be seen as a fully fledged and recognized international human right, despite concerns about its content and status that are expressed by the United States and some other countries.. There is also a distinct possibility that the right to development will be fused with the more amorphous "right to environment" to form a newly recognized international right to sustainable development.
How human rights affect sustainable human development
Sustainable human development seeks to expand choices for all people-women, men and children, current and future generations-while protecting the natural systems on which all life depends. Moving away from a narrow, economy-centred approach to development, sustainable human development places people at the core, and views humans as both a means and an end of development
Human rights and sustainable human development are interdependent and mutually reinforcing
. Thus sustainable human development aims to eliminate poverty, promote human dignity and rights, and provide equitable opportunities for all through good governance, thereby promoting the realization of all human rights-economic, social, cultural, civil and political. The promotion of human rights is of particular relevance in the context of globalization and its potential for excluding and marginalizing weak members of the international community and people with limited resources. Human rights afford protection against such exclusion and marginalization.
The 1986 UN Declaration on the Right to Development states that development is a human right aware of and claim their rights. Sustainable human development and human rights will be undone in a repressive environment where threat or disease prevails, and both are better able to promote human choices in a peaceful and pluralistic society.
The 1986 UN Declaration on the Right to Development states that development is a human right. That proclamation was strengthened by the Declaration of the 1993 UN World Conference on Human Rights, which says that "the right to development is an inalienable human right and an integral part of fundamental human freedoms." This view was confirmed at the UN global conferences on population and development (Cairo) and women (Beijing) and at the World Summit on Social Development (Copenhagen).
The Rights Tools for Sustainable Development workshop aimed to encourage nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) working on development, environment and trade related issues to make more use of human rights rules and mechanisms. The workshop thus had a twofold aim. On the one hand, it sought to provide NGO representatives with information for them to measure the value of using a human rights approach to their work. On the other hand, it aimed to provide a guide to how, in practice, international human rights rules and mechanisms can be of use in advocacy work on sustainable development and economic justice.
Human rights law is a binding body of international law and as such should be respected by all policy-makers, including those responsible for economic or environmental policy. Human rights law has many convergences with economic justice principles and offers a range of instruments and mechanisms that can usefully be applied by those seeking to promote economic justice and sustainable development.Yet most NGOs working towards ensuring that trade and trade rules benefit those who most need it and do not work against the poor and most vulnerable sectors of society base Rights Tools for Sustainable Development
As the Workshop aimed to encourage representatives of NGOs working on trade, development, sustainable development and environmental issues to consider increasing their reliance on a human rights approach.
The Workshop will have 50 participants from Southern region of India. In this 30 participants will be from Chennai area and 20 will be from NGO associated themselves with human rights, women empowerment, Self-Help Groups and Environmental Protection groups. The group will be small in order to maximize the potential for participatory learning. As expected, most participants will be selected on the basis knowledge of international human rights rules or procedures. The full list of participants and facilitators is provided below.
Format and content
The Rights Tools workshop slated for seven days. The workshop is divided into three parts. The first two days consisted of an introduction to the international human rights system, its rules, and the procedures for implementing these rules. In the second part, for three days the group will break up into three sub-groups each of which focused on a different real-life case study. In the sub-groups, participants explored the relevant human rights rules and the procedures available to enforce these rules. In the final session, for two days the full group gathered again to exchange thoughts on what they had learnt in the sub-groups, and to exchange ideas and information for future work in this area and to comment on the approach and content of the Workshop.
Background materials will be distributed including a bibliography and a list of useful relevant web-sites, several of UN Human Rights publications, and a description of a case
brought to the Indian Human Rights Commission on Human Rights by two NGOs on how oil development was interfering with the environment and livelihood of the Assam people. These materials were designed to serve as sources of information and a guide to human rights procedures, which participants could refer to after the Workshop.
The facilitators introduced the features of the international human rights system that weigh in favour of its use in advocacy on issues relating to international trade, sustainable
development and economic justice. Points included that human rights imply entitlements;
human rights include economic, social, and cultural rights; human rights focus on the situation of the poorest and most vulnerable members of society; the legally-binding nature
1. Dr.V.N.Viswanathan- Professor of Political Science, Department of Political Science, Presidency College, Chennai- 600005
2. Prof.Shivaranjini, Head, Department of Human Rights and Duties Education, Ethiraj College, College Road, Egmore, Chennai- 600008
3. Dr.V.Vijayakumar, Faculty of Law, National Law School University, Nagarbhavi, Bangalore
4. Dr. Balu, Prof&Head, Department of Constitutional Law, University of Madras, Chennai- 600005
5. Dr.P.Sudhakar, Joint Director, M.S.Sawminathan Foundation for Environmental Protection, Eldams Road, Chennai- 6000018
6. Mr.S.Venkasubramanian, Chairman, Green Cross Foundation, Theni, Madurai District, Tamil Nadu.
7. Mr.Henry Dipgne, Peoples Watch, 6 Vallabhai Road, Chokkikulum, Madurai- 625 002
8. Dr.V.Vasanthi Devi, Chair Person Institute for Human Rights Education, , 6 Vallabhai Road, Chokkikulum, Madurai- 625 002
Duration of Activity
Activity One for two days- Lectures by Specialists
International Human Rights Law
Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Civil and Political Rights
Third Generation Rights
International Environmental Law
1) national and international wildlife conservation regimes during the past century;
2) fisheries management regulations arising out of international law relating to the sea; and,
3) Customary international law developed out of several international judicial and arbitration decisions dealing with state responsibility for trans-boundary activities.
International Economic Development Law
The role of Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and the GATT/WTO which are the primary international organizations impacting on international economic development law
International Law on Sustainable Development
Earth Summit (UNCED) in 1992
Principle 27 of the Rio Declaration
Agenda 21's Chapter 39, entitled "International Legal Instruments and Mechanisms.
Targeting disadvantaged or excluded groups (women, children, minorities, migrant workers, people with HIV/AIDS), thereby linking social justice, discrimination and development.
Promoting partnerships with NGOs and civil society organizations (including social and political advocacy groups), thereby encouraging people's participation at all stages of programme initiation, formulation and design, implementation and evaluation.
Addressing governance issues (such as corruption, the rule of law, participation, democratization and accountability) in which human rights have been integral but, all too often, not explicitly spelled out.
Strengthening institutions of governance and developing human rights capacity within such institutions.
Building human rights capacity
National and local judiciaries, legislatures and electoral bodies are crucial to the protection and promotion of human rights. They can ensure the rule and enforcement of the law, helping to establish anti-discriminatory practices and achieve socio-economic, political and cultural equality. An effective executive branch can provide leadership in promoting legislation and implementing human rights laws and programmes. Civil service reform can help better formulate governance strategies, procedures and rules, contributing to more effective human rights programming. Decentralization, local governance and support to civil society organizations can empower people and local organizations to claim and exercise their rights or carry out human rights advocacy, outreach and networking.
Capacity development will help these institutions build more sustainable organizational cultures by sensitizing them to human rights issues. Such activities will need to take place at the national, regional and local levels.
Activity Three ( for two days)
Formation of Sub-Groups
Participants for the workshop will be divided into various sub-groups and each group will be formed on their unique specializations such as:
1. Human Rights organizations
2. Environment Protection Groups
3. Business groups
The groups will discuss issues raised in the two days lecturing by the facilitators and come with critique and comments for a broader discussion and debate in the final day.
Activity Four ( one day)
A visit to Pallikaranai marshy land at Chennai. The objectives of the visit are:
1. To assess the degree of environmental degradation that has taken place at the 290 acres of water bodies in Chennai suburb for developmental purpose.
2. To analyze the kinds of human rights violations that have been taken place in the context of uprooting the local people, increase in health hazards, non-sustainable developmental activities promoted both by government and multi-national corporations.
Activity Five (one day)
Individual report of the field visit from different perspectives of the workshop will be presented for further clarity. Discussion and debate will be allowed for tuning of the field visit report.
Activity Six (One Day)
Report Writing- Based on the observation, discussion and debate a report will be written by all the sub-groups linking human rights, environmental concerns and development. Case studies under taken by individual also become part of the out put of the seminar.
Professor of Political Science
Departmen tof Political Science
Presidency College, Chennai- 600 005
Tamil Nadu, India
Ph: 91-044-24452117 (Res)
Mobile- 09444221560 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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