The People’s Republic of China, through its Embassy near Monrovia in partnership with the Office of the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights (OHCHR), on Monday, 30 May 2022, opened a two-day 1st national conference on the right to development.
The conference is aimed at assessing progress made in the implementation of the United Nations Universal Declaration on the right to development and articulate challenges and opportunities and provide recommendations to address the challenges outlined at the end of the meeting.
The meeting which was convened at a local hotel in Paynesville, Montserrado County, was jointly organized by the Chinese Embassy and OHCHR.
The outcome of the conference will help in sharpening future engagement on the right to development in Liberia and the West African Sub-region.
The meeting brought together Cllr. T. Dempster Brown, Chairman of the Independent National Commission on Human Rights in Liberia, Mr. Uchenna Emelonye, Representative of the UN Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNCHR) in Liberia, diplomatic corps, UN agencies and international organizations.
Also at the meeting were representatives of governmental and non-governmental organizations and the media.
Giving the overview of the gathering, Mr. Uchenna Emelonye, Representative of UNCHR in Liberia, said the right to development is recognizing that development is a comprehensive economic, social, cultural and political process which aims at constant improvement of the wellbeing of the entire population.
He said it’s also recognizing that development aims at constant improvement of all individuals on the basis of their active, free and meaningful participation in development and in the fair distribution of benefit resulting therefrom.
Officially opening the conference, Vice President Jewel Howard – Taylor proxy by her legal advisor, Paul Harry, launched the 1st National Conference on the Right to Development in Liberia.
He highlighted the importance of the Right to Development and noted that development is a right, and that right should be taken seriously.
According to the Vice President’s Legal Advisor, the right to Development is not only the responsibility of the government but other actors and stakeholders of the society to include, the private sector, and development partners, among others.
Additionally, Mr. Harry highlighted that accountability should be implemented to the core while the fight against corruption should be practically enforced with words and deeds.
“We will not enjoy development without security and we will not enjoy security without development and we will not enjoy either of them without the respect for the protection of Human Rights,” he emphasized.
Also speaking, Chinese Amb. Ren Yisheng expressed warm congratulations on the convening of the first conference on the Right to Development (RTD) in Liberia.
He told the gathering that development provides for people’s basic needs and gives them hope for a better life.
He said the RTD symbolizes dignity and honor, saying “We must implement the spirit of the Declaration and vigorously promote the implementation of the RTD globally.”
According to him, Africa is a rich and promising continent, and it is also the continent with the largest concentration of developing countries.
Similar historical encounters and common historical missions have closely linked China and Africa, he said.
Accordingly, he explained that China and Africa have always been a community with a shared future and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights adopted by the Organization of African Unity in 1981 stipulates the right to development.
The Chinese Ambassador emphasized that all peoples have their own right to economic, social and cultural development.
He said their freedom and identity are duly respected, and they equally enjoy the common heritage of mankind.
“Facing the common development needs, both China and Africa advocate the rights to subsistence and development as the primary basic human rights,” he noted.
“We attach equal importance to all categories of human rights, respect the right of each country to choose her own development independently, oppose the politicization of human rights and the practice of double standards, and oppose the use of human rights to interfere in the internal affairs of other countries,” Amb. Ren noted.
Cllr. T. Dempster Brown, Chairman of the Independent National Commission of Human Right in Liberia, said the Human Rights Commission is concerned about the welfare of the indigenous people, mentioning that what is interesting is that the conference will assess the progress made in the implementation of the rights to development in the country.
Cllr. Brown said the right to development is the right of every human to participate and also enjoy the social, economic aspects of development.
He stressed that the National budget must be human rights friendly, adding, “It must touch every institution, including education, health, agriculture, among others things.”
The INCHR boss emphasized that “We should remember that in carrying out development the indigenous people must not be forgotten.”
He said the people in the rural areas have the right to development, and that “They must enjoy the resources of this country, because they are managing the resources but they are not benefiting.
Also remarking at the conference, the National Chairperson of the National Civil Society Council of Liberia, Madam Loretta Pope Kai mentioned that development is deserving for all humans.
She said the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have provided some space for partners to meet and provide redress.
“Africa remains an opportunity to the wider world for growth and development, however setting priorities and investing in key opportunities have remained the key challenge,” she said.
She continued, “In Liberia, for instance, we are still investing little or nothing in education, electricity, roads and the fight against Gender Based Violence.”
At the same time, European Union Ambassador to Liberia, Laurent Delahousse said the EU’s action plan on human rights and democracy 2020-2024 remains a focus.
He said protecting and promoting human rights is key to the EU development agenda.