Message of UNDP Country Director maurice Dewulf

06 May 2014

Human Rights Summit, Garden Orchids Hotel, Zamboanga City

Executive Secretary Laisa Alamia, Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao;
Chairperson Etta Rosales and Commissioner Jose Mamauag, Commission on Human Rights (CHR);
Chairperson Algamar Latiph, Commissioner Alikhan Abuat;
Executive Director Bai Biruar-Mitmug, and attorney Edy Santiago, Regional Human Rights Commission;
Mr. Edoardo Manfredini, European Union (EU);

Partners and friends from government, civil society, and the private sector;
Ladies and gentlemen.

Magandang umaga po sa inyong lahat!

It is with great pleasure that I stand before you all today, as the representative of UNDP, in this colourful city of Zamboanga, and on the occasion of this Human Rights Summit.

It is indeed a most satisfying feeling to be here today, knowing that we are all united here  in our commitment for human rights. But not only for human rights. Also for development and also for peace.

That link between human rights, peace and development is of particular importance.

We all know that human rights are indivisible. But let us also share the conviction – because we must, and that would be my main point, as UNDP, on this Human Rights Summit – that peace, development and human rights are also indivisible. Human rights suffer in an environment of conflict and underdevelopment. Development is not there – and cannot be there - when there is no peace and when human rights are stepped upon.  And peace is elusive without full human rights protection and without the fulfilment of the right to development.

Our United Nations Charter, in its preamble, is all about that connection between peace, development and human rights.

Article 1 of that so important UN Charter, signed in 1945 in San Francisco, states that beyond maintaining international peace and security, our collective objective – as a world community - include:


To achieve international co-operation in solving international problems of an economic, social, cultural, or humanitarian character, and in promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion.”

Building on the Charter, the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights document the range of rights which all people should enjoy.

Advocacy groups continue to turn to these landmark documents, and those that followed them, to push for reform in their countries, and to advocate for drafting new constitutions which reflect international norms and standards. We see this most recently in a number of Arab States undergoing complex transitions. All these conventions convey indeed a vision of a better, fairer, more just world, and, directly or indirectly, guide the scope of work of the UN, around the world.  And should thus also guide all of here, as we define our human rights action points here in the Philippines.

There has been – and we can only welcome that –  growing awareness too of how development actors can thus also contribute to the realization of human rights. In response to a drive for UN Reform in 1997 when all UN agencies were called on to mainstream human rights in their work, UNDP adopted its first formal human rights policy in 1998 – Integrating Human Rights with Sustainable Human Development.  

There has also been a process of greater convergence between the human rights and development agendas - both conceptually and in practice.  This is in part due to the emergence of the human development paradigm with its people-centered approach.

The very first global Human Development Report published by UNDP in 1990 declared that “people are the real wealth of nations”, and defined human development as a process of enlarging people’s choices, freedoms, and capabilities to lead lives they value. The concept encompasses another important human right: ‘the right to human dignity’,  and the right to have a say in decisions affecting one’s life, and principles of empowerment and equity.

The Global Human Development Report in 2000 on Human Rights and Human Development, argued that: “Human rights and human development share a common vision and a common purpose – to secure, for every human being, freedom, well-being, and dignity”.  The same year the Millennium Declaration called for respect for all internationally recognized human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the right to development. 

As the target date of 31 December 2015 for reaching the Millennium Development Goals nears, discussion is fully under way on what a subsequent global development agenda might look like.

In 2005, former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, argued that:  “Humanity will not enjoy security without development, it will not enjoy development without security, and it will not enjoy either without respect for human rights”.  These core dimensions are consistent with the notion of “freedom from want” and that of “freedom of fear”.

If we all accept that inherent link between development, peace and human rights, then it is of essential importance that Human Rights Commissions and Institutions pay equal attention to all the human rights, be they civil, political, economic, social or cultural, and to the contribution they can make to establish environments of peace, without which human rights cannot flourish.

May I thus strongly urge the Commission, on this important Human Rights Summit, to do just that, and ensure thereby that the development, peace and human rights nexus be continuously kept at the forefront of your important work and advocacy.

As UNDP, we are honored and pleased to have been invited by you to this event, and with the generous support from the EU, to be your partner on human rights work.

UNDP’s Human Rights work in more than 100 countries has focused directly on supporting the national human rights machinery, and, more broadly, on efforts to strengthen the rule of law and justice.

And often these initiatives are in partnership with the European Union, which also here has been our and your partner. Let me take this opportunity thus to thank once again the European Union here, and express the hope that this partnership will further expand in the years to come.

From our work, we know that many NHRIs and regional institutions continue to be short of resources, capacity, and expertise – including legal expertise – despite the important role they play. Coming out of a past conflict here, the challenges in respect to Human Rights are even bigger.

Indeed, in societies emerging from conflict, trust in the authorities and processes tends to be low, and social cohesion has generally been weakened.  Here, new institutions with integrity, such as the Human Rights Commission, can and must provide the foundation for building inclusive governance. T

Transitional justice is particularly critical so as to tackle the challenges of dealing with past abuses while moving forward without relapsing into violence.  Indeed every civil war which has begun since 2003 was in a country which had previously experienced civil war. 

Without accountability for abuse, old wounds can fester, and that infection can erode peace processes. Much of UNDP’s work on transitional justice is directed towards facilitating national dialogue which engages government, civil society – including victims’ groups, and the general public. That right to the truth, to justice, to repair but also to reconciliation (the pillars of transitional justice) is also a human right.

The Human Rights Summit today is thus an extremely important one, and I can only hope that the support being provided to the RHRC will make it possible for the Commission to deliver fully on these high expectations with respect to rights protection, as this will also impact on whether or not sustainable development and sustainable peace can be accomplished.

As I said in my opening remarks, we are united here in our commitment to support peace, development, and human rights.

Our commitment is much needed, as the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao has long been the poorest, and most subject to conflict and human rights violations.

Adequate health, education, security of person, and access to justice are among the fundamental rights that have yet to be fully realised.

Poverty incidences in these provinces remain among the highest.

Women and girl family members involved in clan wars are at high risk of being kidnapped and subjected to sexual abuse.

From 1999 to 2009, Mindanao saw massive episodes of internal displacement due to armed conflict. This brought about the plight of over 1 million internally displaced persons in the period 2000-2001 and close to 600,000 persons from 2008-2009.

The conflict has also spilled into neighboring cities, including Zamboanga. Last year, the Zamboanga crisis saw blood shed on these very streets. Fortunately, the people did not succumb; the crisis was halted; and since then, significant steps have been taken towards peace.

Let us also not forget that, after almost a year, approximately 26,000 still live in evacuation centres and informal settlements. Addressing  these ‘rights’ issues require time, and we note that the City authorities are doing what they can to fulfill these housing and livelihoods rights of the displaced as fast and well as possible.

Our strong, unshakable partnership with the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) has produced concrete gains over the past few years, one the most notable being indeed the establishment of the Regional CHR in ARMM back in 2012. Now evolved into the Regional Human Rights Commission, UNDP together with the EU has sought to strengthen the first - and currently - the only human rights institution in the ARMM. With guidance from CHR, we aim to support RHRC’s mandate in nurturing a culture of human rights throughout these lands.

The Human Rights Monitoring Centres which this project will establish – in Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, and Basilan - will act as the platform from which active monitoring, quick-response, and community outreach activities will be launched.

With this project, the RHRC is laying down the foundations, and it now needs your collective efforts to help build a bright and prosperous Bangsamoro, where human rights are guaranteed for all.


Maraming salamat po sa inyong lahat!