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Development is about people, not objects Former DFID Rep

Aug 29, 2011, 12:42 PM | Article By: Sainey M.K. Marenah

The former Country Representative of the United Kingdom Department for International Development (DfID) has disclosed that development is about people and not about objects.

“Development must be people-centred,” Nahla Diab Ghanem-Tambedou, now a consultant, said recently while presenting a paper on Understanding Development at a human rights training organised by TANGO for civil societies, development workers and journalists.

She also said development that is material and economic growth occurs outside people. “In reality individuals have little control over it,” she added, saying that the third perspective of development is the one viewed as freeing people from obstacles that affect their ability to develop their own lives and communities.

“Development, therefore, is empowerment: it is about local people taking control of their own lives, expressing their own demands and finding their own solutions to their problems,” Mrs Ghanem-Tambedou said.

She noted that development is a process of change that occurs inside people, saying development can also be ‘to lead long and healthy lives, to be knowledgeable, to have access to the resources needed for a decent standard of living and to be able to participate in the life of the community.

Expatiating on what development is, Mrs Tambedou said empowerment - the engine or driver of development - lies inside ordinary people.  This includes group self-motivation, which is exhibited “in the process of people working together to satisfy their own collective and self-defined needs”.

She added: “ Though the concept of development spilled off from the ‘international development’ focus, which is essentially a product of the post-World War II era, the Cold War had ended, capitalism had become the dominant mode of social organization, and UN statistics showed that living standards around the world had improved over the past 40 years.”

Nevertheless, she said that a large portion of the world’s population was still living in poverty, their governments were crippled by debt and concerns about the environmental impact of globalization were rising.

This is the situation in most of Africa, to which The Gambia “falls under such a category of underdeveloped” nations, she noted, while saying development could be in the form of foreign aid, governance, healthcare, education, poverty reduction, gender equality, disaster preparedness, infrastructure, economics, human rights, environment, and other issues associated with these.

She said that rights-based approach to development is a strategy used by non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to reduce local communities’ dependency on aid by improving government capacity. 

“There are two stakeholder groups in rights-based development, the rights holders, or the group who does not experience full rights, and the duty-bearers or the institutions who are obligated to fulfill the rights of the rights holders.”

Madam Tambedou however told her keenly listening audience that rights-based approach aims at strengthening the capacity of duty-bearers and empowers the rights holder, saying: “A rights perspective means incorporating the empowerment of poor people into our approach to tackling poverty

“It means ensuring that poor people’s voices are heard when decisions which affect their lives are made. It means recognizing that equality matters. Addressing discrimination in legislation, policies and society contributes to an environment in which excluded people have more control over their lives.

“A rights approach also means making sure that citizens can hold governments to account for their human rights obligations.”

Dilating on how right-based approach works, she said: “Participation - enabling people to realize their rights to participate in, and access information relating to the decision-making processes, which affect their lives

“Inclusion - building socially inclusive societies - is based on the values of equality and non-discrimination, through development which promotes all human rights for all people.

“Fulfilling - strengthening institutions and policies which ensure that obligations to protect and promote the realization of all human rights are fulfilled by states and other duty bearers.”

Mrs Tambedou reminded development workers that non-government organizations’ role is to help the poor overcome obstacles blocking their rights and to give governments tools and training to provide these rights.

Also speaking on human rights and development, Madam Tambedou said basic human rights are rights inherent to all human beings, whatever our nationality, place of residence, sex, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, language, or any other status. “We are all equally entitled to our human rights without discrimination,” she said, adding: “These rights are all interrelated, interdependent and indivisible.

“Universal human rights are often expressed and guaranteed by law, in the form of treaties, customary international law; general principles and other sources of international law. International human rights law lays down obligations of governments to act in certain ways or to refrain from certain acts, in order to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms of individuals or groups.”