UN expert: Human rights, accountability should be at heart of Rio+20

The U.N. special rapporteur on the right to food has renewed an appeal from U.N. experts: human rights and accountability should be at the heart of discussions at the upcoming Rio+20 summit.

“Human rights and accountability are the hallmarks of the ‘best practices’ we have, locally and globally, for achieving genuinely inclusive, pro-poor and environmentally sensitive outcomes,” Olivier de Schutter writes on the Guardian’s Poverty Matters blog.

De Schutter is one of 22 independent U.N.  Human Rights Council experts who signed an open letter to governments participating at the summit. The letter argues for the inclusion of internationally agreed human rights standards in the outcome document of the U.N. Conference on Sustainable Development, which will be held June 20 to 22 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The experts also called for the creation of a “strong accountability mechanism” to hold countries to their commitments.

In his blog post, the special rapporteur backs his call with a case study from South Africa, where he says fishing laws were rewritten after small fishing groups challenged existing rules on human rights grounds.

De Schutter says there are two lessons from South Africa’s experience: communities must be consulted for any projects likely to affect them, and accountability mechanisms should always be in place to allow and encourage feedback about missing or misguided policies.

“We must learn from the mistakes of the [Millennium Development Goals], which kept human rights and accountability at arm’s length and subsequently drifted off course,” the expert writes.

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About the author

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    Ivy Mungcal

    As senior staff writer, Ivy Mungcal contributes to several Devex publications. Her focus is on breaking news, and in particular on global aid reform and trends in the United States, Europe, the Caribbean and the Americas. Before joining Devex in 2009, Ivy produced specialized content for U.S. and U.K.-based business websites.