5
Positive Support

Positive support represents the next step in the integration of human rights into the practice of development. Rather than trying to force countries to respect human rights, the aim here is to create the conditions for the achievement of specific human rights outcomes. Conditionality seeks immediate or short-term change, whereas the positive support approach is a mediumto long-term venture. Positive support, then, is a weak tool when seeking rapidly to affect major ongoing crises; its potential lies in the long run, not in the here and now. Conditionality is essentially a practice available to large donors (the major bilateral agencies and the Bretton Woods institutions) who command sufficient resources to inflict pain; it is hardly a tool available to NGOs, whose threats of aid withdrawal would not create more than an amused smile on the faces of rights-violating dictators).1 Positive support measures, however, can be—and are—undertaken by all kinds of aid actors, including NGOs. As a matter of fact, especially in the earlier years of positive support, NGOs played the main role, partly because some of this work, such as political party development, is politically sensitive, and consequently governmental donors prefer to subcontract it to specialized foundations and NGOs.

Positive support has been one of the fastest growing fields of international development assistance during the last decade; from next to nothing, it now consumes more than 10 percent of aid budgets, and in some countries much more (in a post-conflict country such as Rwanda, for example, governance-related activities account for one-third of all aid). Much of what human rights organizations ask for falls within the domain of positive support as well; indeed, over the years, agencies have moved beyond calls for conditionality, requesting that human rights–violating governments, and their international donors adopt improved laws, implement those laws, ameliorate the quality of justice, investigate past abuses, orga

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