Gun control, human rights and aid benchmarks: This week in development news

By Michael Igoe 16 June 2016

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Zeid Al Hussein. Photo by: Violaine Martin / UN Geneva / CC BY-NC-ND

The United Kingdom’s 0.7 percent commitment gets its day in Parliament, Human Rights Watch details Ethiopia’s violence against protesters, while lawmakers in the United States threaten to crack down on refugees, instead of guns in the wake of another mass shooting. This week in development news:

The United Nations human rights chief, in the wake of a mass shooting at a gay club in Orlando, Florida, that left 49 people dead and 53 wounded, urged U.S. leaders to reconsider the nation’s gun laws. “It is hard to find a rational justification that explains the ease with which people can buy firearms, including assault rifles, in spite of prior criminal backgrounds, drug use, histories of domestic violence and mental illness, or direct contact with extremists — both domestic and foreign,” said Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein. A recent U.N. report documented, “the dramatic consequences of the widespread availability and misuse of firearms,” and urged that states’ obligations to protect citizens from gun deaths and injuries constitutes a human rights issue. In the U.S., the American Medical Association said gun violence is a “public health crisis” and urged lawmakers to overturn a special interest-backed ban that prevents the Centers for Disease Control from conducting gun violence research.

A large group of U.S. lawmakers, also in the wake of the Orlando shooting, are seeking to block all refugees from resettling in the United States, regardless of their countries of origin. According to Foreign Policy, which has seen the draft legislation, it would prohibit, “the admission of refugees until Congress passes a joint resolution authorizing the Department of Homeland Security to resume the resettlement of foreigners. It also requires the Government Accountability Office to report on refugees who receive benefits under Medicare, Medicaid, disability insurance, and other programs.” The proposed legislation would not likely gain enough support to become law, and would likely be vetoed by President Barack Obama.

Were U.K. aid supporters right to earmark 0.7 percent of the country’s national budget for foreign assistance? This week members of Parliament debated that question in London, as part of a broader look into U.K. foreign aid, the role contractors play in delivering it, and the results it’s achieving. The debate might appear a simple question of whether 0.7 percent is too much, too little, or just right; but also under discussion were more nuanced questions about the effectiveness of having budget benchmarks like this one in the first place. Molly Anders, Devex’s London reporter, who has been covering the debate, quoted one development professional as saying, “[The 0.7 commitment] just brings down these vultures from the media and elsewhere for whom it becomes an issue. My view is those targets are arbitrary and stupid and get you into more trouble than they’re worth.”

Ethiopian security forces have killed hundreds of protesters in the Oromia region since November, according to a new report from Human Rights Watch. Members of Ethiopia’s Oromo ethnic group have demonstrated against government development plans and projects in the region where they live — particularly a “Master Plan” to link Oromia with Addis Ababa, the booming capital city. Protesters say the government has ignored land rights and marginalized the country’s largest ethnic group in its pursuit of state-led development. The government acknowledged that protesters have died but claims the figure cited in the report — more than 400 individuals — is overstated.

European Development Days, the development forum organized by the European Commission, is underway in Brussels. Migration, the U.K.’s potential exit from the European Union, and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development are all in the spotlight. Devex is reporting from Brussels, with more updates and analysis coming soon.

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About the author

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Michael Igoe@AlterIgoe

Michael Igoe is a senior correspondent for Devex. Based in Washington, D.C., he covers U.S. foreign aid and emerging trends in international development and humanitarian policy. Michael draws on his experience as both a journalist and international development practitioner in Central Asia to develop stories from an insider's perspective.


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