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Opinions of Tuesday, 3 April 2018

Columnist: Kwaku Badu

Akufo-Addo’s poverty interventions may well bridge the social mobility gap

As an ideologue of the human rights approach to development, I jumped for joy when prior to the 2016 election, the National Patriotic Party (NPP) proposed some expedient policies such as Free SHS, one million dollars per constituency, one district one factory , one village one dam in the northern part of Ghana amongst others.

To be quite honest, if the NPP government’s various social interventions go according to plan, the ever widening social mobility chasm will most likely be bridged.

It must be noted that the Declaration on the Right to Development was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 4 December 1986, and first proclaimed this as inalienable right, declaring that everyone is “entitled to participate, contribute to, and enjoy economic, social, cultural and political development, in which all human rights and fundamental freedoms can be fully realized (UN 1986).”

The United Nations Declaration on the Right to Development unequivocally establishes development as an inalienable right and puts people at the centre of the development process.

The Declaration clearly states: “development is a comprehensive process with the view to improving “the well-being of the entire population and of all individuals on the basis of their active, free and meaningful participation in development and in the fair distribution” of the resulting benefits.

A growing body of extant literature reveals that in 1972, the Senegalese jurist, Keba M’baye, ignited the debate on the right to development. M’baye argued that the right to development must be embraced as human rights, and the international community gracefully advanced the debate and reached a consensus (Barsh 1991).

It must also be pointed out that the idea of development through equity and justice was captured in the United Nations Charter (UN 1945). The sections of the preamble to the Charter place emphasis on the promotion of social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom.

Article (55) of the Charter addresses the need to promote higher standards of living, full employment, and conditions of economic and social progress and development, with a view to fostering stability and well-being.

In addition, the right to development is encapsulated in articles (22-28) of the universal declaration of human rights (UN1948), and both articles (1) of the two international covenants- civil and political rights and economic, social and cultural rights (UN 1966).

Interestingly, however, the 1968 Tehran world conference further emphasises the need for the right to development (UN 1968).

Take, for example, Article (12) of the 1968 Tehran Proclamation stresses on the cyclopean chasm between the developed and the developing countries which makes it impossible to realise human rights in the international arena.

Thus Article (13) of Tehran Proclamation stresses that since human rights and fundamental freedoms are universal, indivisible, interrelated and interdependent, the full realization of civil and political rights without the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights is impossible.

Moreover, the Tehran proclamation acknowledges that the realisation of civil and political rights may not be feasible without the realisation of economic, social and cultural rights. Indeed, such a notion reinforces the universality, indivisibility, interdependence and interrelatedness of human rights and democracy.

In other words, per the right to development, development is shifting from the conventional approach to human rights approach, whereby the focus is on equity and social justice (Mansell and Scot 1994).

It was against that background that the international community agreed to work synergistically to assist the underdeveloped nations in line with the provisions of the UN Declaration on the Right to Development.

Thus far there have been concerted efforts by the international community to fortify the Right to Development by first implementing the eight Millennium Development Goals with a view to developing a global partnership for development (Alston 2005).

Apparently, the MDGS came to an end at the end of 2015 and replaced with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Under the Sustainable Development Goals, countries are obliged to work in valence towards achieving the seventeen agreed goals (UN 2015).

As the international community heads toward implementing and monitoring the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals agenda, the human development approach remains useful to articulating the objectives of development and improving people’s well-being by ensuring an equitable, sustainable and stable world.

In hindsight, human development – or the human development approach- is about expanding the richness of human life. It is an approach that is focused on people and their opportunities and choices.

In effect, human development focuses on improving the lives of people rather than assuming that economic growth will lead, automatically, to greater wellbeing for all.

In other words, human development is about giving people more freedom to live lives they value. In effect, this implies developing people’s abilities and giving them a chance to improve upon their lives.

Take, for example, educating a large number of children would build their skills, but it is of little, or no use if they are denied access to jobs, or do not have the right skills for the local labour market.

Human development is, basically, about more choices. It is about providing people with opportunities, not insisting that they make use of them. For no one can guarantee human happiness, and the choices individuals make are for their own good.

The human development approach, developed by the economist Mahbub Ul Haq, is encapsulated in the Nobel laureate Amartya Sen’s work on human capabilities, often framed in terms of whether people are able to “be” and “do” desirable things in life. Examples include-Beings: well fed, sheltered, healthy; Doings: work, education, voting, participating in community life (HDR 2015).

Apparently, since 1990, 2 billion people have been lifted out of low human development, extreme income poverty has been reduced by more than a billion. Every region of the world has seen Human Development Index (HDI) gains (HDR 2015).

In a grand scheme of things, the process of development – human development - should at least create an environment for people, individually and collectively, to develop to their full potential and to have a reasonable chance of leading productive and creative lives that they value.

Thus, policy options for enhancing human development through work have to be built around three broad clusters: (1) creating more work opportunities to expand work choices, (2) ensuring workers’ well-being to reinforce a positive link between work and human development and (3) targeted actions to address the challenges of specific groups and contexts. An agenda for action to build momentum for change is also needed pursuing a three-pillar approach—a New Social Contract, a Global Deal and the Decent Work Agenda (UNDP, 2015).

“Work is intrinsic to human development. From a human development perspective, the notion of work is broader and deeper than that of jobs or employment alone” (HDR 2015).

As a matter of fact and observation, when positive, work provides benefits beyond material wealth and fosters community, knowledge, strengthens dignity and inclusion. Nearly a billion workers in agriculture, 450 million entrepreneurs, 80 million workers in health and education, 53 million domestic workers, 970 million voluntary workers contribute to human progress globally (HDR 2015).

In a way, over the years, work has contributed considerably to impressive progress in human development. However the progress has been uneven with significant human deprivations and large human potentials remain unused (UNDP 2015).

Ghana, so to speak, does not live in isolation in terms of global human development, thus any advantageous policies such as Free SHS, one district one factory, one million dollars one constituency and one village one dam in the northern part of Ghana that will bring about prosperity in the long run, must be embraced by all and sundry.

You may believe it or not, if President Akufo Addo were to honour his Manifesto promises of one district one factory, one village one dam in the northern part of Ghana, one million dollars per constituency, free SHS, tax reductions, among others, I bet, there will be improvement in the lives of more poor disadvantaged people.

Take, for example, if President Akufo Addo’s government were to undertake the irrigation projects in the northern part of Ghana, clearly, more happy faces will be emerged.

If NPP government were to erect factories all over the place and the jobless youth were to blissfully engage in gainful employment, the social mobility gap will most likely be improved.

If Akufo Addo’s government were to reduce the high utility bills to ease the burden on Ghanaians, trust me, there will be more money in the pocket of Ghanaians.

If President Akufo Addo’s government were to give out one million dollars to each constituency for selected developmental projects, I bet, the ever widening unemployment gap will be taken care of.

If NPP government were to pay more attention to the Zongo developmental projects, I could envisage improvement in the lives of the Zongo people.

What’s more, a successful implementation of the free SHS will definitely close the worrying social mobility gap.

K. Badu, UK.

Feedback must please be forwarded to: K.badu2011@gmail.com

References:

Alston, P. (2005), “Ships Passing in the Night: The Current State of the Human Rights and Development Debate Seen through the Lens of the Millennium Development Goals”

Amartya Sen (1999), “The ends and means of development” Chapter 2 from “Development as Freedom”, Oxford University Press.

Barsh, R. L. (1991), “The Right to Development as a Human Right: Results of the Global Consultation”.

France Stewart (2013), “Capabilities and Human Development: Beyond the individual – the critical role of social institutions and social competencies”, Human Development Report Office Occasional Paper, 2013/03.

Mahbub ul Haq (1995), “The Advent of the Human Development Report” Chapter 3 from “Reflections on Human Development”, Oxford University Press.

Mansell, W. and Scot, J. (1994), “Why Bother about a Right to Development?”

Selim Jahan (2002), “Evolution of the Human Development Index,” Section 2 from “Handbook of Human Development”, Oxford University Press.

United Nations (1945), The Charter of United Nations (Online) Available: www.un.org

United Nations (1948), The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Online) Available: www.un.org

United Nations (1966), The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (Online) Available: www.un.org

United Nations (1966), The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (Online) Available: www.un.org

United Nations (1968), The Tehran Proclamation (Online) Available: www.un.org

United Nations (1986), The Declaration on the Right to Development (Online) Available: www.un.org

United Nations (2015), The Sustainable Development Goals (Online) Available: www.sustainabledevelopment.un.org

UNDP (2015), The Human Development Report (online). Available: www.undp.org