Global Goals: social rights as human rights

The seventh edition of the annual International Conference on Sustainable Development brought together around 1,000 participants to talk about Models, Partnerships, & Capacity Building for the SDGs. This two-day event was a forum for scientists and policy makers to come together to share practical research and solutions. The logos of the Kapuscinski Development Lectures, European Commission, and UNDP were used on conference materials throughout the two days; however, the main Kapuscinski Development Lectures program occurred on the morning of the 25th. The first day of the conference, September 24th, featured around 350 presentations across 30 parallel sessions and a poster exhibition. Researchers and students shared their work on climate change, energy, agriculture, demography, and other SDG-related topics. In discussion sessions as well as question and answer periods, researchers and student presenters benefitted from feedback on their research. Conference proceedings for these sessions will be released in early November.

On the second day, high-level participants from the private sector and government shared their challenges and how researchers can help address them. Her Majesty the Queen of the Belgians opened this event, delivering a lecture that was co-organized by both the Kapuscinski Development Lectures and the Columbia University World Leaders Forum. Her speech emphasized the need to implement the SDGs in an integrated manner, for example looking at agriculture and health collectively rather than individually. She asked the students and faculty in the room to think about how they can be communicators to help citizens understand and act on complex issues such as climate change. She also called on all participants to use respectful dialogue and mutual understanding to foster SDG achievement, especially in the context of different actors sharing tools, knowledge, and best practices with each other to accelerate progress.

Following the speech by Her Majesty the Queen of the Belgians was a panel discussion on Culture, Cities, and Communities, with Radhika Iyengar (Columbia University), Aromar Revi (Indian Institute for Human Settlement), and Andreas A. Hutahaean (Coordinating Ministry for Maritime Affairs of Indonesia). Aromar Revi noted that most of our challenges, including climate change, waste management, and service provision in slums, have rapid population growth at the root. He argued that the systems we have in place to deal with these challenges were designed for a world with far fewer people, and that we need to transform governance, management, and accountability frameworks to work in our new world.

A keynote address from SDG Advocate Edward Ndopu focused on the challenge of ensuring no one is left behind in the SDG Agenda. In a conversation with Professor Jeffrey Sachs, Ndopu highlighted his activism to ensure equal access to education for persons with disabilities, particularly young people, noting that worldwide 32 million children with disabilities have no access to education. He also elaborated the way different people, including his mother and his teachers, help him realize his dreams, but also the many ways he found to raise his own voice and advocate for both himself and the community of persons with disabilities. Ndopu also challenged policymakers and people with access to leaders to not just talk about the importance of inclusion and leaving no one behind, but to ensure they are making space for these voices to be present in the discussion, at the table, bringing those that are farthest behind to the front. He also elaborated that this needs to be meaningful participation because these are the voices of leaders with talent and solutions, as opposed to superficial participation for show.

Two discussions on the role of the private sector shared the common theme about the need for innovation to drive the transition to sustainability. Pat Brown, CEO of Impossible Foods, highlighted the need to transform our agriculture and food system, and the way scientists at impossible foods were able to develop a meatless burger patty offering all the taste of beef without the environmental footprint. Gayle Schueller, Vice President for Sustainability and Product Stewardship and Chief Sustainability Officer of 3M, presented a history of the company and how innovation has been fundamental to their business since their founding over 100 years ago. Schueller shared 3M’s recent breakthroughs in green chemistry, and a commitment that every new product will have a sustainability value commitment.

The afternoon featured a speech by the Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs of Indonesia Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, who shared Indonesia’s commitment to sustainable tourism and SDG implementation. It was followed by a broad conversation between David Lipton, Acting Managing Director of the IMF, and Professor Jeffrey Sachs, which touched upon how we finance the SDGs and Paris Agreement, what we have learned from past financial crises, and the need for greater multilateralism.

Reproductive health in a changing humanitarian climate

In her lecture, “Gender Equality and Reproductive Health in a Changing Humanitarian Climate” Sarah Costa discussed recent changes in the sexual and reproductive health of forced migrants. Before, during and after their migration trajectories, forcibly displaced people are vulnerable to harm in their sexual and reproductive health. Regardless of one’s legal status, everyone should get access to reproductive health services and information about their reproductive rights. Therefore, leading questions in this lecture were: can gendered migration dynamics have a transformative effect on people? How can institutions, aid workers and organisations collaborate on a stronger shared knowledge base regarding migration and reproductive health? And how can we create safe spaces where people can enjoy a safe and satisfying sex life?

Today, the humanitarian sector is confronted with many challenges. More than 69 million people are forced to leave their place of residence because of violence, persecution or  violation of their human rights. In addition to this growing number of displaced people,  the length of the displacement is increasing as well. Furthermore, an expanding number of people are fleeing to urban areas in search of employment opportunities and emergency services. On the other hand, wealthy nations are becoming more and more isolationist and borders are closing. Humanitarian resources are thus disproportionately overstretched and underfunded. Against the backdrop of all these challenges, Sarah Costa stressed the particular risks and vulnerabilities of women and girls. At least 25% of refugee women are of reproductive age, 14 % of these women are pregnant, and 15 % of these pregnancies will lead to life threatening complications. Nonetheless, a gender analyses is lacking in the design and implementation of most humanitarian programs. Costa pointed to the importance of  target group-oriented facilities for women and men. For example, migrant women are afraid to use latrines in refugee camps. No safe spaces are established, leaving women vulnerable and exposed to violence. Moreover, humanitarian programs should not solely focus on supplying reproductive health services, working on women’s social and economic empowerment in the humanitarian field is at least as important.

Despite these intersectional vulnerabilities of forced migrants and refugee women, transformative change is achievable. In her lecture, Sarah Costa listed eight strategies that can contribute to transformative and positive practices. First off, Costa referred to a necessary shift in our discourses about migrants and practices towards them to adapt to the changing experiences of forced migrants. Displaced people are not merely victims in need of assistance and humanitarian care. Rather, they must be regarded as survivors with strengths, skills and capacities that can be tapped and supported. Second, the social and political field should stop treating the so-called ‘migration crisis’ as  short-term problem, instead long-term programs must be supported. Sustainable capacity building programs will stimulate local economies. Third, humanitarian actors must involve women and support women’s participation. Migrant women can offer unique insights in limitations and opportunities of existing humanitarian programs. Fourth, local women’s organisations can play a powerful role in developing accurate services for women. Their contribution is too often ignored or sidelined by international aid organisations. Therefore, allocation funds need to strengthen their capacity and leadership. Fifth, along with local women, local capacity must be supported. Favourable framework guidelines have been set by humanitarian organisations, but implementation of these guidelines remains poor. Sixth, the humanitarian and development actors must improve their partnership relations. Although organisations in both fields share many common goals, they remain often separated. Seventh, it is necessary to focus on empirical data demonstrating the impact of a gendered-based approach. Without data it is impossible to demonstrate and evaluate the advantageous results of gender-based programs. Lastly, increasing accountability of humanitarian actors by donors with regards to the integration of gender perspectives in all aspects of their work. Local organizations again can play an essential role in evaluating whether their needs are being answered.

In a panel discussion after the lecture, Ines Keygnaert (Assistant professor in sexual and reproductive health an Ghent University) talked about the sexual and reproductive health context for forced migrants in Belgium. In her contribution, she emphasized that sexual and gender-based violence continues when migrants arrive in ‘host’ countries. Keygnaert pointed f.e. to the maternal mobilitiy problems women face. European rules about access to safe delivery for all migrant women is being turned back in more and more countries. Childbirth is no longer regarded as an urgent medical intervention. More generally, she underlined the importance of providing assistance regardless of legal status. This principle lay at the basis of the recently started sexual assault care centre in Belgium.

In their concluding remarks, Keygnaert and Costa stressed that both the accountability and gender-sensitivity of humanitarian organisations have to be strengthened to protect the reproductive health of refugees and migrants.

Agenda 2030: Two Years In

This lecture formed part of the 6th Annual International Conference on Sustainable Development took place in Alfred Lerner Hall on September 26th and 27th, 2018, with additional side events on the 26th and 28th. The Crown Prince explored the history of human advancement, and the effects, both positive and negative, it has had on humans and the environment. He called on participants to remember that humans are part of nature and that we need to weigh our choices carefully, because “taking care of the environment is taking care of ourselves.” H.R.H. reinvigorated commitment to the SDGs, stating that he is “not tired of talking about them,” and left the audience inspired and hopeful by presenting some solutions to clean up the oceans such as plastic harvesting in the Pacific garbage patch. In the Q&A that followed with Professor Sachs, H.R.H. explained his deep personal connection to the ocean, where he spent a great deal of his childhood and is now working to build the same memories with his own children. The Crown Prince took time to remind us of how far we have come and that achieving sustainable development is sooner than we think.

Impact of refugees crisis on Western Balkans and EU

Neither the limited local infrastructure nor tried and tested social capitals can withstand the size of the present migration challenge unaided. With specialized government agencies and international organizations providing direct support to refugees and migrants, UNDP has focused on supporting its traditional partners in local government, which in so many regards have shown themselves again and again to be the – somewhat less visible – backbone of resilience at times of crises. „The refugee and migration crisis threatens years of development gains in Western Balkans and EU – border communities and local governments on migration routes key to region’s resilience”.

Why refugees need jobs, bank accounts, and insurance

Our world is in the midst of one of the most intense refugee crises it has ever seen. In fact, 1 in every 122 persons in the world has been displaced due to conflict. At 60 million, this is enough to form the world’s 24th largest country. As the international community, largely unprepared, is struggling to meet the demands, Dr. Paul Spiegel of UNHCR joins #KAPtalks to argue for a new paradigm. He suggests we must go beyond the donor-assistance system to one in which refugees must be given cash, bank accounts and health insurance. 

Politics and Education

Aung San Suu Kyi shared her experience on political, economic and social transition which Myanmar went through.  She spoke about the dynamic changes Myanmar is going through and challenges that the country is still facing.

Human security in developing world

Much in the same way that Amartya Sen introduced ethics into economics, Mahbub Ul Haq and his team posited in the 1994 Human Development Report (HDR), that “security”, until then associated with the prerogative of states in realist international relations and political science theories, should be seen from the point of view of people. The best way to achieve security (both at the global, national and societal levels), they argued, is to increase that of people. In the 1994 HDR, Human Security was broadly defined as “freedom from fear and freedom from want” and characterized as “safety from chronic threats such as hunger, disease, and repression as well as protection from sudden and harmful disruptions in the patterns of daily life – whether in homes, in jobs or in communities” (UNDP, 1994). Since then, a healthy debate has been raging both in academia and in policy circles around definitions of Human Security. Some focus on a narrow definition of “freedom from fear” that concentrates on safety from physical violence and threats, while others defend a broader definition that also refers to threats to livelihood (“freedom from want”) and indignities (“freedom to live in dignity”).

Interest in Human Security has been pursued in at least two different fields: When discussed in the context of international or national security, Human Security is juxtaposed with state-centered paradigms of security by proposing a people-centered answer to the questions of whose security (that of people in addition to states), security from what (from non-traditional sources, direct and indirect sources of violence, including structural violence) and security by what means (through development and human rights intervention, in addition to policing and military). When discussed in the context of development, Human Security refers to the assurance that the process and outcome of development is risk-free. It draws attention not just to levels of achievement, but to securing gains made by deliberately focusing on “downside risks”, such as conflicts, wars, economic fluctuations, natural disasters, extreme impoverishment, environmental pollution, ill health, and other menaces.

This Kapuscinski development lecture on human security was delivered by Shahrbanou Tadjbakhsh, who has been teaching this subject at Columbia University and at the Institute of Political Sciences (Sciences Po) in Paris for over a decade and has developed a comprehensive textbook for students and worked with the Human Security Unit at the UN on a guidebook for practitioners.

The lecture covered the following questions:

  • What is Human Security? Origins, definitions, critiques, uses and implications
  • What are the added values to the fields of traditional security, Human Development and Human Rights?
  • How has the concept been adopted or rejected at the global and regional levels?
  • What are the operationalization principles and implications for policy and programming?
  • How can human security/insecurity be measured?

Human rights violations as obstacle to development

The lecture examined the context and consequences of the genocide perpetrated against the Tutsi in Rwanda in 1994 on the development of the country. It showed how the combination of dictatorship exercised by a restricted national elite called akazu (literally “the small house”) – helped by a complacent international community – with a three-decade ideology of ethnic hatred led the country to the destruction of more than one million human lives, representing approximately 13% of the whole population of Rwanda at that time.

The genocide committed in Rwanda exemplifies not only how gross violations of human rights hamper development, but also how, when they reach an extreme level of violence, they may even bring the destruction of almost the entire social fabric and the abolition of any kind of morality and any sense of hope, a situation beyond which there is no possible survival for any human community, not to speak of development.

Conversely, the lecture shows the link between the successful reconstruction of the Rwandan society after 1994 and the first steps of development, characterized in recent years, not only by increased investment, but also by the establishment of a national system of checks and balances and the global improvement of governance. It also sheds light on the outstanding challenges ahead and the hopefully the improved role that the international community, including the European Union Eastern New Member States, can play to help Rwanda consolidate and qualitatively elevate its development.

Dignity and responsibility in international development

HRH Crown Prince Haakon of Norway, UNDP Goodwill Ambassador, offered the keynote lecture entitled “Dignity in Development: Our Common Responsibility to Reach the Millennium Development Goals”.

First, he presented a series of statistics related to word population and the distribution of income, which showed that the large majority of the world population is deeply poor, a fact that is damaging to both world economy and human dignity.

The intervention continued with a brief introduction of the MDGs – what they are, when they were adopted and what is the current level of achieving them.

To illustrate better what the human development means and how one may really relate to MDGs, he chose the child mortality rate statistics, identifying for the audience several examples and telling the story of Norway’s several generation efforts to reduce child mortality.

The key to achieving goals such as MDGs, HRH told the audience, is to think about the persons in less favourable situations similarly as if they were persons one knows, not just statistics. The reason for following such goals, he continued, is to preserve “human dignity”, one of the few values that can have universal appeal.

He concluded the lecture with several examples from his Goodwill Ambassador work, encouraging the audience to think about one definite goal each of them may and could achieve during the next year in order to improve his/her life and make the world a better place.

Women in development

The lack of trust in leaders and the urgent challenges of poverty, inequality, conflict and climate change demand a new model of leadership and development. The 21st century is the time for inclusion and women’s full and equal participation. An effective post-2015 development agenda requires a focus on promoting human rights, ensuring public participation and tackling structural inequalities.

Dignity and development

The Millennium Development Goals were rightly set, there is progress in their implementation however it is too slow. There is still much to be done – said the Crown Prince Haakon of Norway during his Kapuscinski Development Lecture at the University of Warsaw on 8th December 2011.

The lecture provided an opportunity for the Polish students to learn about the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). During his lecture entitled “Development and Dignity” the Crown Prince described the MDGs and their priority target to halve the proportion of people living in extreme poverty by 2015. He stressed the progress achieved so far in bringing at least 400 million people out of extreme poverty compared to 1990. On a global scale the poverty rate in developing countries decreased from 46 to 27%. According to the Prince Haakon also the primary education improved among boys and girls, the number of new HIV infections is going down.

The Crown Prince described most thoroughly the goal related to child mortality which aims at decreasing the rate by two thirds by 2015. Twenty years ago over 12 million children before the age of 5 were dying annually from preventable diseases. In 2010 this number decreased to 7.5 million. This presents an obvious progress however we will most probably not achieve this goal by 2015 – said the Crown Prince.

Prince Haakon presented the linkage between income per capita and the child mortality rate. When my daughter Ingrid was born in 2004, Norway was at the level of Singapore in these statistics. When I was born, in 1973, Norway was at the current level of Malaysia. When my mother was born, in 1937, we were at the current level of Peru. When my grandmother was born, in 1898, this was the position of Uganda and at the time of my great grandmother’s birth in 1831 Norway was at the level of Mozambique. This shows how reducing child mortality is a difficult and a long-term process. But this is feasible – said Prince Haakon.

According to the Crown Prince the least progress was achieved in implementation of the goal related to decreasing maternal mortality and building global partnership for development. Prince Haakon focused part of the lecture on the issue of human dignity and its relation to development. The Prince is a founder of the “Global Dignity” initiative.

In 2003, Crown Prince Haakon was appointed Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) with a particular focus on the UN Millennium Development Goals and the effort to cut global poverty in half by 2015. In this capacity he has travelled to Tanzania, Cambodia, Sierra Leone, Guatemala, Burundi, Mongolia, Botswana and Nepal.