Rights, Justice and Development | Daily News

Rights, Justice and Development

The UN Declaration on the Right to Development, adopted on December 4, 1986, defines development as ‘an inalienable human right by virtue of which every human person and all peoples are entitled to participate in, contribute to, and enjoy economic, social, cultural and political development, in which all human rights and fundamental freedoms can be fully realized’.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were born at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro in 2012. The 2030 Agenda is explicitly grounded in international human rights treaties. The commitment to human rights is further reflected in the general principle of non-discrimination and the aim to “leave no one behind”.

Human rights are further reflected throughout the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and targets. Human rights offer guidance for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, while the SDGs can contribute substantially to the realization of human rights. This call for justice to promote safe and peaceful societies and strong institutions is now embodied in Goal 16: Promote just, peaceful and inclusive societies. Goal 16 is the key to ensuring that progress and prosperity are widely shared, and that those most in need can claim and exercise their rights as global citizens. Taken together, justice, rule of law and accountable and inclusive institutions are the linchpin of shared social progress and our ability to realize human flourishing.

The challenge

The challenge is to link human rights concerns of citizens, Justice and Development as Rights to be claimed. The adoption of the 2030 Agenda along with the SDGs provide an excellent platform for elevating the right to development (RTD) to a higher threshold in policy making and research, and thereby enhancing its impact in development practice. It also presents a significant impetus in terms of operationalizing this right in the implementation of the SDGs, with a view to realizing both the RTD and the SDGs in a mutually reinforcing manner.


In every province every unaccompanied senior is cared at home, every person with special needs is assisted, every single parenting person has access to cheap credit and means to earn a living, the homeless poor are supported, we monitor air quality and proactively act, water security is a national priority, all classified as poor have access to Samurdhi Bank Loans, we ensure any and every person in need is never left behind. This is hardly difficult. It only requires a commitment to care.


Why and how in Sri Lanka

* Sri Lanka consists of varying types of communities, religions, cultural and traditional systems; and survivors of conflict, disaster, and the longer disparities generated from persistent poverty and vulnerability. There are calls for more concerted and broader efforts to reach those whom are vulnerable and may not be able to express themselves because of this vulnerability.

* Survivors of violence due to civil strife in the past, vulnerable and single parent families, differently abled persons, persons disposed of lands, persons whose narratives are recorded in Reports of Commissions of Inquiry requiring further action, women and children, senior citizens persons in poverty and those acutely suffering indebtedness and areas and persons at risk due to natural disasters are all in need of assistance.

* Concepts of development as notions of Rights and Justice are not necessarily fully understood by very many duty bearers. There is a surfeit of human resources within Government including several categories of development officers serving in the Districts. They need to be aligned and alive to the need to deliver services which foster development as a right of citizens.

* Encouraging dialogue on the Right to Development at National reviews undertaken at regional level in order to promote dialogue between civic groups, Governments and other interested parties on the Right to Development and identify issues.

* Utilizing the SDG’s and RTD framework localized and contextualized issues relevant to the regions with structured platforms whilst collecting local examples of solutions are helpful.

* Equipping advocates and claimants with the knowledge on how to claim these rights through regional networks and supporting stakeholder groups and responding direct to on behalf of citizens in need is the delivery mechanism.


Select problems to be addressed

Poor - 60 percent of the population live in rural areas. More than a quarter of the population in Sri Lanka falls below the poverty line with earnings just above US $1.30 per day. Sri Lanka’s employment in the agriculture sector needs to decrease from the current 27 percent to 15 percent in order to reach the average of countries with economies on par with Sri Lanka. In order to employ the remaining 12 percent of rural population in non-farming activities, he asserted that young entrepreneurs in the rural sector need to take the lead in creating employment opportunities.

Vulnerabilities amongst women and children - Women’s unemployment rates are twice that of men, A-Level 58% of girls passed, and 60% in undergraduate university enrolments, 76.8% of primary schools had running water, only 32.8% had a sufficient number of toilets for girls, nationally 23.5% female headed households- (3.6 % never married, 32.2 married, 64.3% widowed, separated, divorced. 7.1% with no schooling, 68.9%), 570,937 public employees,1,003,373 private employees, 28,623 employer,680,369 own account worker,592,560 unpaid family worker. One in every three older women was widowed in Sri Lanka. In the young old category, (age 60-69 years) one in every four females were widowed, while among middle-old category (age 70-79 years), about 42 % females were widowed. Among the oldest-old category, a half of the female population were widowed.

Children constitute approximately 30% of the population. Demographically amongst those identified as disabled 23% are children below 18. They are also the second largest segment citizens in institutional care homes. 36 out of every 1,000 girl children are pregnant with trends rising. It is believed that a woman is raped every 90 minutes, and 3-5 children are raped daily.

Transitional justice - supporting victims and survivors with their claims for reparation, representation before commissions, requiring legal assistance for their claims arising from losses, those tortured, forcibly dispossessed of lands, requiring healing of memories and working on prevention on recurrence of past abuses.

Disaster Risk reduction - greater coordination, clean energy research and development, conservation programs and research work, capacitating local communities with early warning and knowledge to enable resilient communities, Climate change resilience measures for coastal areas susceptible to sea level rise, use of climate resilient seed varieties, growing crops for relief, scientific water management, reforesting areas of wildfires, recreating/strengthening mangroves and eco systems, greening areas around rivers (103 no’s) and water ways (10,000+nos), ground water recharging, green households and reducing of carbon footprint of commercial sector.

Social Empowerment and Welfare - Target audiences - 1.4 mn Samurdhi beneficiaries, 31,825 physically challenged subsisting on allowances, 2.5 mn senior citizens,1.8 mn differently abled, 600,000 who suffer from various mental illnesses as citizens requiring urgent attention.

Special educational needs - learning difficulties, social, emotional or mental health difficulties, specific learning difficulty, sensory or physical needs, communication problems medical or health conditions.

Senior citizens - In 2030, Sri Lanka is expected to have 22% of its population aged over 60 years, In 2012 there were 2,524,570 people (12.4%) living above the age of 60 years, Oldest (80 or over) was 61 %, Women comprise the majority of both the total and 56 % of total aged population in Sri Lanka marking the feminization of ageing. 60 % of the persons aged 80 years or over had experienced at least one disability while for age groups 60-69 and 70-79, it is reported as 25 % and 43 % respectively. However, it is important to note that 30 percent of aged persons who are in age 80 or over had experienced three or more number of difficulties. Having multiple difficulties effect on the health condition and long-term care needs of older persons. 


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