The LDC Platform of Action and the Human Rights framework May 2001

The International NGO Committee on Human Rights in Trade and Investment (INCHRITI) and the International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH) believe that human rights must form an important dimension of any sustainable development process. The human rights framework strengthens and reinforces the core objectives of human, social and economic development, and we consider that the legally binding nature of these obligations (including the obligation of international cooperation for the realization of human rights) provides a comprehensive and constructive basis for development policy, nationally and internationally.

Unfortunately, the value of a human rights foundation for development policy has until recently been overlooked especially by developing countries, for fear that human rights might be misused to justify new forms of economic conditionality and protectionism. We acknowledge the validity of this concern, but believe that the positive protective nature of human rights obligations undertaken by UN Member States have been ignored by most developed countries in international economic forums.

We submit that human rights obligations, especially in the area of economic, social and cultural rights, have an un-recognized potential for protecting social policy priorities against the impositions of structural adjustment and international macro-economic prescriptions, as well as for guiding social and economic policy at the national level.

In view of this perspective, we are deeply concerned by the relative lack of explicit reference to the human rights framework in the agenda and draft plan of action for the forthcoming Third United Nations Conference on Least Developed Countries (LDC-III).

All LDC countries, as well as other countries engaged in this process, have ratified at least some UN human rights treaties. The obligations contained in these instruments are overarching in nature, and may not be disregarded or subordinated to other priorities, either at the national or international level. We therefore consider that Human Rights should be integrated in the Agenda and Plan of action of the LDC-III conference.

One of the key respects in which the human rights framework might usefully feature in the LDC-III conference is in the review of the implementation of international support measures, particularly in the areas of ODA, debt, investment and trade. The obligation of international cooperation for the realization of human rights emphasized in the UN Charter, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the UN Declaration on the Right to Development, has implications for the implementation of such international support measures.

Several aspects of current international trade, investment and finance policies and practices are increasingly undermining the ability of states - particularly the LDC countries - to perform according to the commitments that they have made to ensure the enjoyment by all, including vulnerable groups of fundamental human rights such as food, housing, healthcare, education and decent work. In a globalized world and economy, solidarity (rather than competition) and collective action (rather than collective inaction in the face of market failures) will increasingly be necessary if the human rights of all are to be safeguarded.

A strong human rights orientation in the LDCs Agenda and Plan of Action will help to promote the creation of national and international policies that will support the human rights of all people residing in the LDC countries. It Will also strengthen the general development strategies of LDCs.

Through such an orientation, we can help ensure that multilateral and regional debt, trade, investment and finance policies do not undermine the fundamental human rights of people and communities that the LDC governments are pledged to protect.

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