[ International Development Cooperation ]
The Promotion of Human Rights
in International Development Cooperation
The basic principle
In the last decades, the protection and promotion of human
rights has become an increasingly important benchmark for political activities
all over the world. Governments have committed themselves to the universality
and the indivisibility of human rights and have agreed to respect them
- for example at the United Nations Human
Rights Conference in Vienna
in 1993 and again at the United Nations Social Summit in March 1995 in
Copenhagen. The thesis that content and aims of development are defined
by human rights and that development, democracy and respect for human rights
are interdependent, finds an ever greater number of supporters. In practice,
however, a number of human rights standards remain controversial and their
implementation is threatened. Furthermore it must be said that opposing
views cannot be explained by pointing to cultural differences or geographic
divisions - conflicts run right through societies. Human rights
are guaranteed nowhere, not even in Western democracies.
The promotion of democracy, economic and social development
and international understanding are at the heart of the international work
of FES. It thus always has a direct bearing on human rights. The Foundation
does not intend to imitate the activities of human rights organizations
like Amnesty International. It concerns itself rather with the political
conditions which enables rights to be observed.
Without democratic control and without the rule of law, human rights can always become subject to infringements. Thus the Foundation's projects promote democratic reforms and participation, the rule of law, and free press for example by providing advisory services on establishing constitutional and legal systems and by supporting and cooperating with organizations of civil societies. Counselling by the Foundation in economic and social policy questions serves the respect for economic and social rights. The furthering of political dialogue also includes the support of efforts to bring about understanding and harmony in internal political conflicts.
Human Rights at the Intersection of National and International Activities
In the area of human rights as in other fields of activity,
it has become increasingly clear that national and international developments
have a mutual influence on each other and are closely interconnected. It
is neither possible nor particularly sensible to draw a clear line of distinction
between the two. A commitment to an international policy directed towards
human rights standards is in fact not credible unless it is supplemented
by continuous involvement with human rights issues in one's own country.
The Foundation has therefore increasingly integrated human rights issues
into its projects in Africa, Asia and Latin America as well as into its
activities in the Federal Republic.
In Colombia, the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung supports efforts
by the government and by non-governmental organizations to put an end to
massive violations of human rights. For example, in cooperation with representatives
of local human rights organizations, it held a seminar on the "Taking
Stock of the Human Rights Situation in Colombia and Recommendations to
the New Government" and it has begun to promote a network of human
rights spokespersons of the trade union federations in Colombia. In March
1995, the Foundation confirmed its commitment by holding a meeting in Bonn
on "Colombia ¤ Tasks for a Human Rights Policy", at which
representatives of the Colombian government and Colombian human rights
organizations participated. The meeting was intended to improve the basis
for cooperation between organizations which are working in this field at
national and international level and to identify options for joint action
to reduce violence. Based on an analysis of past experiences, the Colombian
guests and the staff of German human rights and development organizations,
members of parliament and representatives of the Foreign Office and the
Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development suggested and discussed
The Foundation has been increasingly involved in the human
rights debate in the Federal Republic of Germany, too. At present, it focuses
on economic and social rights, the rights of women and questions of conflict
prevention. The Foundation has organized a number of seminars on these
topics (e.g. "Women's Rights are Human Rights" on November 23rd
and 24th, 1993, "Preventive Diplomacy and Conflict Management in Internal
Conflicts: the Role of Non-governmental Humanitarian Aid Organizations"
on June 16th, 1994, and "The Role of Economic and Social Human Rights
in the Context of the UN World Social Summit" on November 19th, 1994).
The Foundation cooperates closely with German human rights organizations
within the Forum for Human Rights, established in January 1994 with the
purpose of improving coordination and cooperation between the German NGOs.
Together with other member organizations of the Forum, the Foundation has
held seminars (e.g. on the topic of asylum), responded to the second Human
Rights Report of the German Federal Government, and participated in discussions
with representatives of the Bundestag and the Foreign Office.
In 1994 the Foundation for the first time awarded the "Human Rights Prize of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung" to honour "arduous and persistent fundamental efforts" of an organization or a person for the prevention of conflicts and of violence against people; at the same time, persistent infringements of human rights are criticized. In 1994 the award went to the "Marie-Schlei-Verein" for its achievements in combatting poverity. The reproach against the military government in Burma was linked to a declaration of solidarity with Aung San Suu Kyi.
Further examples of human rights activities by the Foundation are:
the rule of law and an independent judiciary by supporting law reforms
(e.g. in Guatemala), and by advising the court systems and training judges
(e.g. in Nicaragua);
©Friedrich Ebert Stiftung | technical support | net edition mv&ola | August 1997