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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 CHILDall 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.

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Example 1: Cooperation to Improve the Human Rights Situation in Colombia

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 possible solutions.

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Example 2: Contributing to the German Human Rights Debate

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:

furthering 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);
holding international conferences on the subject of human rights (e.g. a conference on "Human Rights and Trade Unions" in the Pacific region in November 1994 or a seminar on "Human Rights as a Central Category of the International Political Dialogue" in October 1993 in Bonn in connection with the UN Human Rights Conference in Vienna);
promoting the freedom of the press and reporting about human rights issues (e.g. by supporting the Third World News Agency Interpress Service which operates world-wide and deals with human rights issues);
strengthening the commitment to securing economic and social rights (e.g. by workshops in Pakistan on child labour, by coordinating preparations of German development and welfare agencies for the UN World Social Summit, and by addressing questions of social justice within the framework of a project dealing with the social dimensions of the market economy, with the purpose of working out policy instruments for Third World countries with which to meet the social needs of marginalized groups);
supporting the firm establishment and protection of trade union rights (e.g. by supporting events at which independent industrial unions are formed in Korea);
accompanying efforts for peace by promoting confidence-building measures (e.g. in Mozambique and Ethiopia, El Salvador and Nicaragua).


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©Friedrich Ebert Stiftung | technical support | net edition mv&ola | August 1997