|Integrated Sustainable Development (Item 6)
John Arbogast, U.S. Delegate
Statement before the United Nations Human Rights Commission
Geneva, Switzerland, March 20, 1997
Why certain nations develop more quickly than others is a question that has preoccupied scholars for generations. While the United States cannot claim to have all the answers, we try to learn from our mistakes and follow the most effective practices. We encourage others to do so, too.
For history does teach lessons to those that choose to learn them. For example, there is a very high correlation between a nation's level of development and the degree to which its civil and political institutions are free to flourish. This is no coincidence. The most prosperous nations are the free market democracies. Their citizens generally enjoy longer lives, more rights and privileges, and considerable personal freedom.
We in the United States are not alone in viewing these rights and freedoms as the building blocks upon which individuals and societies can grow. As the Vienna Declaration explicitly recognized, "democracy, development and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms are interdependent and mutually reinforcing." Nations that choose to limit the rights and freedoms of their people, limit themselves. Their development is slow, if not stunted altogether.
It is precisely for these reasons that the United States believes that only a fully integrated approach can lead to development which is sustainable. Such a view is rooted in our own history and experience. As President Clinton said in his first Inaugural Address four years ago: "Our hopes, our hearts, our hands are with those on every continent who are building democracy and freedom. Their cause is our cause."
Thus our development programs, like those of many others, are multi-faceted and address a wide range of inter-locking issues: economic reform and broad-based growth; human health and family planning; environmental protection; democracy-building and good governance. These latter include special programs to strengthen the rule of law and respect for human rights, help foster competitive political processes, develop a free media, and build accountable local and national government institutions.
But we do not believe in simply throwing money in the direction of these issues. Our programs with developing countries are designed to produce an integrated whole: healthy, productive people who are able to take care of their families and contribute to their nations' future through vibrant democratic institutions and free market economies. These countries then become partners in, and contributors to, a peaceful, stable world. Thus sustainable democracy and sustainable development go hand in hand. For we believe that the development of other nations is in our national interest just as much as it is in theirs.
Another way of describing our approach to development is comprehensive empowerment. With that in mind we have come to understand the vital role that women play in a country's economic, social and cultural development. As a consequence, many of our programs -- from health to family planning and micro-enterprise development -- are geared toward women, as well as other particularly disadvantaged groups.
We claim no First-World monopoly on wisdom. For example, much of what we know about micro-enterprise development comes from Bangladesh and the Grameen Bank. If it's practical, we'll use it.
In this era of tight budgets and growing needs, our approach to development must focus on results. After all, we owe it to the American taxpayer, and the countries we are working with, to see to it that support is tied to performance. South Africa deserves our praise for the bold, wide-ranging steps it has taken toward national reconciliation since apartheid was swept aside. And Haiti continues to make progress as a result of the restoration of democracy there.
It was not that long ago that the countries of Central and Eastern Europe were saddled with a Soviet-era system of laws and repressive regulations that retarded their growth and development. But with the help of the international community, and above all their own inherent understanding of free institutions, many new civil, legal and other structures have been created in just a few short years. Here, too, freedom has led to growth and positive development for millions, despite a number of ongoing challenges.
Among the most difficult tasks facing the international community are helping avoid destabilizing conflict and assisting in rebuilding societies which have been torn apart by war. Development assistance in such cases must take into account many additional challenges: crisis prevention and conflict resolution; the difficult process of dealing with the past; the need to rebuild governmental and civic institutions such as the justice and banking systems; and meeting basic humanitarian needs while building toward sustainable, long-term solutions.
Countries like Mozambique, El Salvador, and Cambodia have shown that progress is possible if the will -- and the right kind of comprehensive development strategy -- is present. With the peace treaty it recently signed, Guatemala is ending thirty years of internal conflict and adopting comprehensive strategies for its future. Angola can begin to achieve its potential if the peace process is maintained and consolidated there. And we see promise in the regional development strategies being pursued for the Horn of Africa.
Mr. Chairman, last year the Commission achieved consensus on a resolution which recognized that the human person is the central subject of development. It further acknowledged the importance of a comprehensive approach to development, affirming its integrated and multidimensional aspects and including the key role of civil and political rights.
The resolution also provided for the establishment of an inter-governmental Working Group to elaborate a strategy for promoting development. The United States is encouraged that the Working Group has determined its major thrust will be the development of balanced proposals for "concrete and practical" measures in the context of the integrated and multidimensional concept of development.
In conclusion, Mr. Chairman, we believe that a sound, realistic, and results-oriented approach is the right one. Recognizing this at the Commission should take us -- hopefully once and for all -- beyond the sterile debate that has characterized this subject for far too long. Such debate benefits no one, and wastes the Commission's time. For example, we believe it is abundantly clear that, as the Vienna Declaration stated, "the lack of development cannot be invoked to justify abridgement of internationally recognized human rights." It makes no sense to further contest such points.
Similarly, the argument that individual rights must wait until a country has time to develop has little to do with genuine development and all too much to do with the smoke and mirrors of political repression. Repression does not lead to sustainable development; only free institutions and free people can do that.
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