NO SECURITY OR DEVELOPMENT WITHOUT RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
An Arlican colleague recently told me about a discussion with a diplomat from East Asia after the war in Iraq. One of the issues was the universality of human rights. “Can this principle be debated?”, You may ask. In French as in English, the title of the text adopted in Paris 70 years ago manifests, indeed, by itself the will to formulate valid rights everywhere and for all: “Declaration universal rights of the man. “
Criticized, governments have regularly, over the last 70 years, retorted that human rights were the invention of a West devoured by individualism. Thus, in a society in which the interests of the community take precedence over those of the individual, the validity of these prerogatives is, according to them, only relative.
My colleague was surprised: his Asian interlocutor conceded frankly that, in his country, no one had ever really given credit to this rhetoric of relativisation. Everyone felt that it was right to denounce the brutal treatment of dissidents by the ruling power. The revelations of torture in Iraqi prisons, targeted executions without trial, and other acts of “Western” armed and security forces, in stark contrast to fundamental rights, marked a radical break. By its own behavior, the West has not only lost its legitimacy to criticize other states, but has also paved the way for the questioning of human rights.
One can question the honesty of reasoning. Nevertheless, countries that have claimed decades of human rights guarantees have, to a large extent, been discredited. “We have lost our moral greatness,” as my colleague notes. “Without development, no security; without security, no development. And neither is possible without respect for human rights, “declared former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who died last August.
In this spirit, cooperation Switzerland supports more than 50 projects to strengthen human rights in partner countries. Emphasis is placed on good governance, the transparency of government decisions, the rule of law and the participation of all segments of the population, especially minorities and women, in political and social processes. In Albania and Serbia, the SDC runs projects for the Roma. In Tunisia, in the Great Lakes region of Africa and in Tanzania, it helps to professionalize and make independent the local media landscape, encouraging journalists to assert themselves more as a critical counterbalance to state power. During personal meetings with some of them, in South Kivu in particular, I was deeply impressed by their courage and their idealism.
While the “moral authority” weakens in some places, it gets stronger elsewhere. In both cases, the trend is not self-evident. In both cases, it is not immutable.
Director of the SDC