The Asian Development Bank and the Role of Human Rights in the Pursuit of Just and Sustainable Development in the Asia-Pacific Region: An Advocacy Role for Australia?

Article excerpt

Abstract

The Asian Development Bank ('ADB') is an important institutional financer of development in the Asia-Pacific region: its primary mission is reducing poverty in the region by promoting sustainable and inclusive economic growth. ADB-financed activities have the potential to advance the enjoyment of human rights, but may also he open to the accusation that they sometimes facilitate violations of those rights by national governments. This article examines the A DB's approach to the explicit incorporation of international human rights norms into its policies and procedures, noting its general reluctance to embrace such norms. It argues that. ADB member states, including Australia, are under international human rights treaty obligations to ensure that their participation in the activities of and their dealings with the ADB do not involve the violation of their human rights treaty obligations. The article discusses the reasons why, nonetheless, there is relatively little interest among ADB members or staff in the explicit incorporation of human rights standards in their work. It puts forward suggestions for further research, including a detailed and systematic review of ADB's record and the potential that explicit use of human rights framework might have for improving the effectiveness of the ADB's development work. Finally, the article argues that, as the ADB is an important development partner for Australia, and one in which Australian influence is significant and to which Australia's contributions are likely to increase in corning years, there is a strong case for Australia doing more now to encourage the explicit integration of human rights standards into the work of the ADB.

Introduction

In December 2006, the United Nations ('UN') General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities ('CRMY'), (1) which represents a major breakthrough on the international level in the protection and protection of the rights of persons with the Convention reaffirms the standard canon or human rights, and formulates them in often innovative ways to reflect the experiences and violations of human rights that: persons with disabilities often face. (2) Among the innovations in the CRPD is article 32, a provision that, For the first time in a UN human rights treaty, explicitly addresses the obligations or States Parties in relation to international development cooperation. (3) Article 32 requires States Panics, among other things, to ensure that 'international cooperation, including international development. programmes, is inclusive of and accessible to persons with disabilities'. (4)

For the first time, the CRPD explicitly highlights the obligations of States Parties in development cooperation. However, the question about the extent to which States' obligations under other human rights treaties apply to development cooperation (or, more generally, apply extraterritorially) persists. (5) Similarly, there are questions about the consistency of human rights frameworks with different approaches to development and their utility in achieving other development goals. (6)

This article takes up these questions in the context of the Asian Development Bank ('ADB') and considers: the extent to which that institution explicitly takes into account international human rights norms in its policies and procedures; the relevance of the international human rights obligations of its members to ADB activities in general and to bilateral relations; and the potential contribution that using a human rights framework might make to achieving die development goals of the ADB, with a particular focus on the areas of gender and disability. It then explores the question of Australia's participation in the ADB and the extent to which its obligations under human rights treaties oblige it to bring explicit human rights considerations into the work of the ADB.

This article first provides a brief description of the mandate and activities of the ADB, and then notes the relevance of gender and disability issues in the context of development. …