Preserving Discursive Spaces to Promote Human Rights: Poverty Reduction Strategy, Human Rights and Development Discourse

By Perry, Robin | McGill International Journal of Sustainable Development Law and Policy, Spring 2011 | Go to article overview

Preserving Discursive Spaces to Promote Human Rights: Poverty Reduction Strategy, Human Rights and Development Discourse


Perry, Robin, McGill International Journal of Sustainable Development Law and Policy


1. INTRODUCTION 2. DEVELOPMENT AS POVERTY REDUCTION    2.1 The Concept of Development         2.1.1 Development and the World Bank         2.1.2 The "Emerging Paradigm of Development" 3. THE ROLE OF POVERTY REDUCTION STRATEGY PAPERS IN REDUCING    POVERTY    3.1 Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers: An Overview    3.2 Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers: A Rights-Oriented Critique        3.2.1 Developing Rights through the Poverty Reduction              Strategy Paper: The Right of Access to Justice        3.2.2 Developing Rights through the Poverty Reduction              Strategy Paper: the Right to Participation in              Public Affairs 4. DEVELOPMENT, POVERTY REDUCTION AND HUMAN RIGHTS    4.1 The Rights-Development Nexus    4.2 The Co-opting Influence of the Development and Poverty        Reduction Paradigm on Human Rights        4.2.1 The Dynamic, Discursive Nature of Human Rights        4.2.2 Development and the PRS: Neutering the Normative,              Discursive Potential of Human Rights 5. CONCLUSION 

Coinciding approximately with the beginning of the new millennium, the development project has been undergoing a purportedly momentous transformation in recent years. An underlying principle of this policy revolution is that the effectiveness of development depends on its expansion to holistically address social concerns and that a narrow focus on the conventional components of economic growth alone is insufficient. (1) This "incorporation of the social" in the new development paradigm is perhaps best embodied in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) adopted by the United Nations (UN) in 2000 (2) and, more specifically, by the genesis of the Poverty Reduction Strategy (PRS) which is captured within the first of the MDGs. Hence, the Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSP) have been embraced by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank (the Bank) as the principal instrument for promoting this enlightened conception of development. In particular, PRSPs have become a critical device for integrating human rights into development, to the point where the realisation of human rights could now be said to be one of the objectives of, and not merely a means to, development.

As I will demonstrate in this essay, however, amidst the grandiose claims and lofty rhetoric it is possible to discern a continuation of the inhibiting orthodoxies and rationales that have been at the heart of development since its inception. The PRS model, as conceived by the Bank and the IMF, together, the international financial institutions (the IFIs), has the potential to neuter the oppositional, political qualities of human rights and to occupy the dynamic space in which those rights might otherwise operate. In short, poverty reduction has become the institutional vehicle for shaping and directing the application of human rights towards achieving the orthodox consensus of what constitutes development. In doing so, it inhibits the normative potential of human rights to encompass and convey an articulation of developmental aims which go beyond the limits of this consensus. In this paper, I will thus situate human rights as taking an established, positivist and "universal" form "within" development, on the one hand, and an unsettled, multifarious, resistive form "beyond" development on the other.

Ultimately, I aim to demonstrate that it is essential to preserve space for the resistive, oppositional expression of rights in order to promote contestation of the meaning of development. PRSPs may have the potential to satisfy certain human rights objectives and specific poverty reduction outcomes (as conceived by developmental institutions). However, the restricted scope for the interpretation and construction of rights will reduce the contestation of development to the conventional question of "growth plus" rather than "what growth how". (3)

2. DEVELOPMENT AS POVERTY REDUCTION

2.1 The Concept of Development

The notion of "development" and the power of its teleological promise of transformation has become such a prominent feature of international relations that it is almost impossible to imagine a world without it.

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