Perspectives on Human Rights and “the Right to Development”

USAID Rosarie TucciPerspectives on Human Rights and “the Right to Development”
Joint African Group-U.S. Side Event
As delivered by USAID Representative Rosarie Tucci
September 30, 2015

Thank you, Ambassadors, and particularly our co-hosts for inviting me here today.

As a representative of a development organization, I believe it would be helpful to briefly provide a backdrop of where we are today in the development field.  It’s important for us to reflect on the advances we’ve made thus far, and to think about our purpose here today within this context.

After four high-level forums on development cooperation effectiveness over the past decade – we have a number of principles that guide development work – directed at both donors and partner countries – ultimately aimed to foster more productive partnerships.

Starting with Rome in 2003, donors made commitments to address issues of harmonization of procedures and reduce transaction costs for partner countries.

Moving to 2005 in Paris, the development community set out to improve the quality of aid and increase its impact; the objectives were outlined in 5 principles:  ownership; alignment; harmonization; managing for results; and mutual accountability.

Results, ownership, and another concept called inclusive partnerships were all identified three years later in Accra as areas for greater improvement.  And while it was noted that progress has been made overall on development indicators, the forum highlighted the need to focus on delivering real and measurable results for development.

The most recent one — the Busan forum in 2011 was really an opportunity to cast a broader net to include other development stakeholders in the dialogue, such as the private sector, civil society organizations and south-to-south partnerships.  It also re-worked the principles of ownership, managing for results, inclusive partnerships and mutual accountability.

These events and others, particularly the UN Financing for Development Conferences helped shape the U.S. government’s approach to development. First and foremost, the Millennium Challenge Corporation was created in 2004 to support good policies, country ownership, and results – concepts sound familiar?  Before a country can become eligible, MCC first examines its performance on independent and transparent policy indicators and selects compact-eligible countries based on policy performance.

USAID has made a number of changes as well to support development cooperation effectiveness and sustainable development.  Big changes in USAID began with a reform agenda called USAID Forward which embraces new partnerships – especially local partners — and demands relentless focus on results. Shifting in approach, we are employing what we call a  “local solutions” model that helps ensure our partner countries can gain the skills and capacity necessary to implement development programs. We believe that by engaging local stakeholders – such as government ministries or local NGOS – in the development of our programs, we are helping to ensure these programs carry on long after we are gone.

Last April, USAID issued the Local Systems: A Framework for Sustained Development, which reaffirmed our commitment to Sustainability and Country Ownership. In it, we explicitly recognize that achieving and sustaining any development outcome depends on the contribution of multiple and interconnected actors. It shapes how we analyze our direct engagement with  partners.

As we consider partnering with these actors, we conduct assessments with indicators to ensure that governments’ systems have the capacity to support these programs. Similarly with local organizations, we are conducting local actor analysis to assess the needs of stakeholders so that we can better support their capacity development, and in turn they too can manage development programming effectively and efficiently.  The bottom line is that our direct engagement reflects our commitment to creating the conditions for countries to own, resource and sustain their own development.

Together, these Agencies can budget around $20 billion in foreign assistance in one year alone – as Ambassador Harper said – we take development seriously.   MCC and USAID have these processes in place to help safeguard U.S. taxpayer dollars entrusted to them.  But more importantly, the more we can do to maximize funding through effective systems and the better we can demonstrate results – the more lives we can save, the more children we can help send to school, and the more mothers we can care for with quality treatment.

I’d like to shift my focus to another advancement in the development field.

As the development agenda seeks to become more sustainable and address poverty reduction, we have also begun to see a convergence of human rights and development.  This is happening at USAID – we are recognizing the integral role that HR plays in development.

I mention this also because we use the human rights framework within the development agenda in a specific way.   As the Ambassador said, development can be a tool to advance human rights – a means to secure human dignity.   On the other hand, human rights can help improve and sustain development outcomes in health, education, economic growth, and many other development sectors.

This shift to support human rights in development is happening because we are seeing links and connections in our programming.  USAID’s new Mission Statement says, “we partner to end extreme poverty and promote resilient democratic societies.”   Indeed, “resilient, democratic societies” supports our long-term development goals.  But realization of democratic societies –  those societies that are free, peaceful, self-reliant, with effective and legitimate governments — can only be built upon a respect for human rights, and its principles of equality and non-discrimination.

And while I can’t say we fully apply a Human-Rights Based approach to development at USAID per se – we’re seeing many changes afoot within our approach.

We are understanding better how human rights can support other sectors, because, in addition to the theory and concepts, as practitioners, we see firsthand, on the ground, the linkages between human rights and development.

As the world grapples with refugee and migrant flows, we see the push factors that lead families to escape their conditions.  While conflict is a major driver, we shouldn’t overlook structural conditions that deprive individuals of basic security—including a lack of economic, political and other human rights.  Combined with economic pressures and poor governance, these factors can at best stifle development and at worst lead to regional humanitarian crises.

And as another example, we know that broad-based, economic growth – the kind that alleviates poverty isn’t achieved through technocratic solutions or capital investment alone.  It happens when we focus on the economic rights of all citizens, through strengthening institutions of economic governance that can remove barriers to opportunity.  This can be done by strengthening property rights, reforming inheritance laws, and improving enforcement of commercial law.

So, if you’re looking to imbed principles of participation, inclusion, transparency, and accountability into development work – it could look much like the Democracy, Rights and Governance Integration that USAID is working on right now.  Through case studies underway now, we’re building the evidence-base to better understand how these human rights principles improve other development outcomes.

We’re also utilizing methodologies that help USAID to better understand the power dynamics that may influence our sector development programs – similar to methods employed in a human rights based approaches.

USAID’s human rights programming is only growing – because of the resources and tools we are putting behind this effort to operationalize our policy objectives.

But as in all development sectors, it’s not just about doing more programs – it’s about performing better.  This requires us to apply the latest advances in monitoring and evaluation.  For example, we require strong monitoring and evaluation plans in mission proposals to our Human Rights Grants Program, which has allocated over $25m since 2011 alone.

And we must continue to help our field missions tap into the developments in human rights indicators made over the past few years – and that’s what we’re doing when we provide technical assistance to the field.

More broadly, we’re also investing in what we call the “Human Rights Learning Agenda” — exploring key questions we need to answer to develop a stronger evidence-base for human rights programming in development.  For example, how can we answer questions like —to what extent does provision of direct social services to vulnerable groups improve the human rights situation for these groups?  We’re creating both new research efforts and tapping into existing research to ensure we are taking advantage of the latest developments in human rights programming.

Overall, this approach helps ensure that our human rights programs benefit from:

  1. A high degree of upfront analysis including a robust assessment of power dynamics,
  2. utilization of, what I mentioned before — engaging local stakeholders,
  3. sufficient attention to issues of gender and exclusion, and
  4. a consideration of how the potential to do harm will be mitigated.

Let me conclude by saying that USAID will continue to grow human rights programming in the development space, and we’ll continue to create and use best practices.

So, when we’re doing programing that improves the enabling environment — such as assisting the Guatemalan Ombudsman to train other government offices on reducing discrimination against LGBT individuals — we’ll be sure to support both supply and demand side programming.

Or if we’re supporting programs that ensure effective responses to help mitigate the impact of human rights violations — such as supporting to CAR’s local radio station to improve information sharing – we’ll work harder to provide support sooner and quicker.

And when we’re helping to ensure effective remedies – like training human rights lawyers to prepare strategic litigation to hold perpetrators accountable for the 2012 violence in Mali  – we’ll stay acutely attune to the impact that human rights abuses have on the long-term development of communities.

I hope USAID can come back to this venue to discuss the advances we’re making in these areas — local solutions, results-based programming, and integration of human rights approaches.  Each of these advances is supporting the trend toward greater effective and sustainable development.

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