MDGs and Human Rights in South Africa

The developed world got the opportunity to have a common position, as well as integrated vision on the best ways that could be used to address and solve different multidimensional problems facing humanity in the developing world. The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), approved by the United Nations Millennium Summit, became a remarkable event in the year 2000. The key objective is to review the extent to which and how human rights are reflected in the national MDG based development strategies and policies in the selected African countries. It should be noted that the eight set goals are based on human rights. The following fact will be critically analysed using a country-by-country basis. Despite the failure of some African countries to tackle poverty eradication, there are some states that have managed to achieve a significant improvement in meeting the set goals. The activities of these countries will be elaborated and discussed in the following research. Also, the research is aimed at discussing that states should align their MDG targets and indicators in accordance with the international human rights standards. The Thailand’s MDG-plus model will be used as an example. It will be proved that the success of MDGs should move beyond economic growth to sustainability, inequality and wellbeing of the people. Business should follow the post-2015 development agenda to ensure that the novel sustainable development goals are definite.

Since 1994, South Africa has become internationally known for its relatively good performance in terms of common gender equality measures. The South African constitution, based on its strong provisions for equality, lays the foundation for achieving this goal. Since then, South Africa has introduced significant laws that directly address discrimination and gender issues. It has ratified a number of international instruments and conventions that are relevant to gender issues, as well as establishing structures to address such issues. While the government continues to lead in providing the right-based legislative framework that will be used in achieving gender equality, the broader South African society needs to supports and practices gender equality. This required a continuous dialogue among the private, civil and public sectors in partnership with other international agencies. It was done through advocacy, raising awareness, education in support of the political and socio-economic rights and entitlements of girls and women.

South Africa’s good performance in gender issues is recognized both on regional and international indices. The country ranked the 4th out of 87 African countries in the 2012 index on the Social Institutions and Gender Index (SIGI) which was published by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). While South Africa’s overall achievement on indices is pleasing, the general rating masks differences such as those associated with location and population groups. Generally, indicators that are based on legislation do not take into account how well legislation is enforced and implemented. Moreover, there are issues which are not well-captured in any of the indices, most notably gender-based violence.

South Africa was considered as having reached most of the targets of gender equality, if not exceeding them. The country’s performance has also improved for most of the indicators over the period. However, while the country performs well based on international indicators, it also faces a range of cultural and socio-economic challenges that lead to the underpinning of the aspects of gender inequality.

In this regard, the factors that play an important role in the complex dynamics of assessing the progress towards achieving gender equality include:

  • The need to ensure equal access to employment opportunities for women;
  • The need to address violence that is based on gender on all fronts;
  • The need to encourage and promote more equitable and non-gendered discrimination of labour.

MDGs and Human Rights in Nigeria

Nigeria launched its own version of the MDGs poverty eradication or reduction programme, in conjunction with other programmes. The aim of the programme is to achieve MDGs as contained in the NEEDS document. NEEDS has poverty eradication as its third actionable goal. However, it is disheartening to discover that Nigeria has failed to meet the targets of NEEDS as contained in the policy document. According to statistics, Nigeria does not have good primary health care, safe drinking water, and the rate of unemployment has been on increase on a daily basis. This represents the failure of NEEDS in eradicating poverty. Also, since the establishment of the National Poverty Eradication Programme (NAPEP) to tackle the challenges of poverty, it has nothing tangible to show for its existence.

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Due to the controversy, the NAPEP finds itself in the Senate of the country, it has made some moves to probe the activities of the agency since its establishment. This is because the general impression given to people is that the agency has failed the country due to the high poverty rate. It was reported that the agency had received the total of 11.8 billion naira with nothing to show forth for it. There are reported cases of diversion and misappropriation of budgetary allocations that are meant for efficiently solving most of the challenges of poverty in the country.

In this regard, the poverty alleviation or reduction programme established by the Nigerian government via instrumentality of the NEEDS and MDGs has failed due to corruption and misappropriation of funds that are meant to carry out the programme. Therefore, it can be established that Millennium Development Goals have not successfully tackled the challenges of poverty in Nigeria. This is evident in the reports on the MDGs implementation, which revealed that Nigeria had failed to meet the objectives on such issues as child and maternal mortality, poverty eradication, integration with the global economy and environmental sustainability. Nigerian economy is deteriorating and the social condition of the people worsens.

In addition, the actualization of the MDGs through the NEEDS programme in Nigeria has been challenged by insincerity in governance, poor leadership, lack of adequate data base, inconsistency in policies as well as a high level of corruption, etc. Some growth indices are often paraded by the government, but there have been conflicts between those indices and the existing realities. As reflected in the socio-economic lives of the citizens, the country still exhibits a large symptom of underdevelopment.

MDGs and Human Rights in Zambia

By the introduction of the MDGs in 2000, the indicators for Zambia’s human development had been weak, owing to the constant deterioration of the economic and economic conditions of the state since the mid-1970s. From the late 1980s to the 1990s, Zambia implemented the Structural Adjustment Programme that was inspired by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Under this programme significant cuts to public expenditure were implemented, considerably weakening the delivery of social services in the education, health and other sectors.

After the 1990s deterioration, there was a little improvement from 0.35 in 2000 to 0.395 in Zambia’s human development ranking as reported in 2010. Despite the progress, there is still a low rate of human development that will make it difficult to achieve some of the goals. Between 2006 and 2009, the economy of Zambia grew at an average of 6.1 % per annum. Only 27 % of the 22 indicators that were reported in 2011 MDG progress report are on track, 54 % need to be accelerated while 18 % will not be met. However, this suggests that the development efforts are not sufficient to meet the MDGs. Therefore, the post-2015 development targets and goals must be less minimalistic and quantitative. Also, human development requires looking beyond economic growth to the impact and nature of the growth, especially on the disadvantaged and discriminated.

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MDGs and Human Rights in Tunisia

Before the late 2010, Tunisia’s uprise, a large percentage of the international community saw the country as a development success story. For many Tunisians, the progress was not enough because better access to services and large incomes were not able to compensate for the challenges of corruption, inequality, powerlessness and repression. The country’s economic growth was close to 4 %, whereby about 90 % of children went to primary school and the life expectancy was impressive. The progress did not satisfy the aspirations for greater justice, dignity and freedom.

While Tunisia struggles for rights, democracy still continues. Its recent experience exposes the inadequacy and narrowness of many approaches to development. The country provides compelling cases for development to be more broadly reframed, not only as high income but also, as the creation of conditions in which everybody can gain equal access to development, as well as living free of discrimination and inequality. However, this is associated with the basic social, economic, cultural, political and civil rights the government is obliged to honour, but they are denied to hundreds of millions of people.

MDGs and Human Rights in Ethiopia

Ethiopia has made commendable progress in terms of MDGs on education and health but other aspects of its development strategies have led to serious abuses. According to some reports, rights violations in Ethiopia were linked to the “villagisation” resettlement programme as in Gambella region. The government justified the programme in terms of development, stating that it was voluntary. About 1.5 million people in five regions were moved to new locations with the stated aim of gaining access to better services and infrastructures. On the contrary, research into the first year of the programme revealed that people were forced to relocate against their will. The security forces had to beat them up and abused those who objected. However, the new villages often lacked promised services and farming lands, resulting in hunger and starvation.

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In regard to human rights, the government forcibly displaced people from some parts of southern Ethiopia in order to make way for large-scale sugar plantation. This development had a massive cost on the rights of the indigenous groups because their livelihood is being decimated. In addition, millions of migrants in more visible sectors of the economy suffer human rights abuses, such as those in the construction sectors.

MDGs and Human Rights in Kenya

Kenya has achieved a degree of progress towards some of the MDGs. The country has ascribed to the Millennium Declaration and is already in the process of establishing measures and mobilizing resources that will be used to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. As in 2007, the country had achieved notable headway in its fight against poverty. Even though there was some increase in the number of people living below the poverty line from 52.3 % in 1997 to 56 % between 2000 and 2002, by 2005/2006, this number dropped to 45.9%. Also, significant progress was achieved towards the provision of universal primary education, with 95 % of boys and 90 % of girls enrolled in primary schools. The country is also making progress in combating HIV/HELPS.

However, in order for Kenya to achieve all non-income dependent MDGs, the government had to increase the level of public spending as a share of GDP to a level of about 32 %. The improved economic performance between 2003 and 2007 had a positive impact on the level of poverty in Kenya. The government of Kenya had focused budgetary allocations on core poverty rededication programmes that are intended to increase speedily the rate of achieving the MDGs. Such programmes were intended to create employment, increase agricultural productivity, provide access to basic education, ensure access to family planning and health services, provide decent shelter, clean water supply and sanitation, meet environmental protection demands and manage disaster and emergencies, etc.. However, these programmes will help reduce discrimination and inequality in the society as targeted by MDGs.

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The Millennium Development Goals became the practical and measurable articulation of the declaration, gaining much interest and support from governments, the civil society, the global development community and other shareholders. Even with the amount of progresses achieved by the MDGs, most countries have failed to integrate all the principles outlined in the Millennium Declarations, including the human rights principle of equality and non-discrimination. The MDGs focus both on global and local averages and progress can mask much growing disparities or even slower progress at the sub-national level and among specific populations. However, Africa is considered as the only continent that is not working efficiently in order to meet the goals of the Millennium Declaration by 2015. This helped to review the extent to which and how human rights are reflected in national MDG based development strategies and policies in selected African Countries. Based on the facts discussed in this paper, it could be seen that poverty eradication in African cannot be the MDG’s success story without the human right principles of non-discrimination and inequality.

In most parts of Africa, young children in the poorest households are 2-3 times more likely to die or to be malnourished than those children in the best-off strata. Also, in terms of what is measured by MDG indicators and targets, gender inequalities are still pronounced in most African countries and contexts, and are all pointing to the urgency of addressing gender discrimination. It was reported that the MDG5 has not achieved significant progress in reducing maternal mortality, especially in Africa which highly depends on realizing women’s right and achieving gender equality. Discrimination and inequalities are often mutually reinforcing based on location, income, ethnicity and disabilities intersect with gender.

Based on empirical ground, it is difficult to evaluate the efficiency of MDG enterprise in eradicating or reducing poverty, although there has been significant investigation on the subject. In this regard, some governments have claimed that the goals have had significant influence on their spending priorities. However, it is not very clear how far the progress achieved so far can be attributed to the goals. But so far, in Africa, mobilization seems to have modest impact in achieving the MDGs. Non-discrimination and equality are the bedrock principles of human rights laws, and everybody is entitled to all the freedom and rights set forth in the Declaration. This is done without any form of distinction such as sex, race, colour, religion, language, political or other opinions, social or national origin, property, birth or other status.

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