Categories
Human Rights Development

The Usual Suspects: Abstaining the Water Vote

Clean public drinking water in the Democratic Republic of Congo, photo: Julien Harneis/flickr

The usual suspects never fail to disappoint. With 122 countries voting in favor and 41 abstaining, the UN General Assembly has recently declared clean water and sanitation as a fundamental human right, a move hailed by water rights activists as a “big step in the right direction.” Although passing with an overwhelming majority, the vote’s abstentions are disconcerting, although, considering the culprits, not surprising.

The usual suspects—United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, and Israel—attempted to justify their abstentions through unconvincing procedural language. Substantively, they argued that declaring water as a human right has no sufficient legal basis in customary international law. Isn’t that the exact purpose of this declaration, to move in that direction? Before the non-binding Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) in 1948, most human rights now enshrined in treaty law was also not part of international law. Like the UDHR, the current water rights declaration has the power to fuel the onset of a normative and legal shift focusing on codifying the right to clean water and basic sanitation in enforceable treaty laws. The second argument, of a procedural in character, proposes that the vote would disrupt ongoing water rights negotiations at the Human Rights Council (HRC) in Geneva. Why would the HRC—a 47-member body—be deemed more appropriate a forum than the more democratic and representative 192-member General Assembly? If anything, the current declaration can help guide and even compliment the negotiations in Geneva.

So why abstain from such a seemingly basic declaration?

Categories
Development

The ISN Quiz: The Pitfalls of Development

We’re asking whether development aid is missing its mark in this week’s Special Report. How much do you know?

[QUIZZIN 27]

Categories
Development

Development Aid: Missing Its Mark?

More targeted development aid is needed, photo: Melissa Gray, flickr

Has traditional development aid helped alleviate – or further exacerbated – poverty? This week the ISN takes a closer look at the promises and pitfalls of development aid with particular attention to the benefits of targeting it more directly at the grassroots level.

This ISN Special Report contains the following content:

  • An Analysis by Dr Gerard DeGroot discusses the limited ability of traditional development aid to alleviate poverty, concluding that small projects addressing basic human needs may have the biggest impact.
  • A Podcast interview with Fiona Ramsey about the big benefits of small microfinance loans for sustainable development.
  • Security Watch articles about the impact of development aid from Haiti to Georgia, Somalia and beyond.
  • Publications housed in our Digital Library, including a recent Kiel Institute Working Paper assessing the value of performance-based aid as an alternative to the largely failed traditional approach.
  • Links to relevant websites, such as the International Policy Network’s paper on the impact of foreign aid – with Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, and Botswana cited as examples.
  • Our IR Directory, featuring the Cambridge-based Collaborative for Development Action, an NGO committed to improving the effectiveness of international actors involved in supporting sustainable development.
Categories
Development

Gender Equality Bearing Fruit

Image of village in Bihar, courtesy of Hyougushi/flickr

The BBC has an inspiring article on an alternative method to combatting gendercide in India: fruit trees.

Reporter Amaranth Tewary travels to Dharhara village in the state of Bihar, a place that sets a new precedent for areas that practice female infanticides.  For every daughter born, families plant a minimum of 10 mango and lychee trees.

This commercially viable initiative sustains the family on a day-to-day basis, whilst covering the cost of their daughters’ dowry. Thus, this practice achieves two goals: It meets the challenges associated with female foeticide as well as global warming.

The Economist also has an in-depth report on the issue of infanticide (subscription needed).

One can only hope that such a custom is recognized for its significance and is emulated in every other region affected by female infanticide norms.

Categories
Culture Development

More than a Game

A footballer atop Montmartre, photo: photolupi, flickr

With the first World Cup hosted on African soil underway, the ISN takes a closer look this week at the impact of sport beyond the headlines – particularly as a tool for development.

This ISN Special Report contains the following content:

  • An Analysis by the Swiss Academy for Development’s Daniela Preti about how sport contributes to youth empowerment and social transformation at the grassroots level.
  • A Podcast interview with SCORE executive director Stefan Howells explores the important role that sport can play in developing countries to bridge the gap between classroom and community.
  • Security Watch articles on the impact of international sporting events from the World Cup to the Olympics.
  • Publications housed in our Digital Library, including the Middle East Institute’s snapshots of sport in the Middle East.
  • Primary Resources, including a UN General Assembly Resolution on ‘Sports as a Means to Promote Education, Health, Development and Peace’.
  • Links to relevant websites, such as UNICEF’s Sport for Development website.
  • Our IR Directory, featuring the Swiss Federal Department of Defense, Civil Protection and Sport.