The Rights-Based Approach to Development: Is ARMM an Obstacle to Development?

What now for ARMM in view of the framework of rights-based approach to development? Has ARMM become an obstacle to development?

Contributed to Bulatlat
Vol. VII, No. 48, January 13-19, 2008

Nearly four decades after the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1949, the Declaration on the Right to Development was finally adopted by the United Nations (UN) General Assembly in 1986. Since then, the rights-based approach to development (RAD) has become the UN’s normative framework in development. It is distinguished from mainstream development inasmuch as it views development as a “right” and not a “need” to be satisfied.

Rights-based approach to development is founded on the conviction that each and every human being, by virtue of being human, is a right-holder. And that a corollary duty is created in which the state must respect, promote, protect, and fulfil the right-holder’s right to development. Hence, the two-way-traffic relations between the right-holder (individual/people) and the duty-holder (state).

Empowerment by participation

Rights approach to development focuses, among others, on the right-holders’ participation in the process of economic, social, cultural and political development. Here, participation is understood as the effective mobilization of human and natural resources in inequalities, discrimination, poverty and exclusion.

RAD “recognizes poverty as injustice and includes marginalization, discrimination, and exploitation as central causes of poverty… The acknowledgement that severe poverty is a human rights violation, and that poverty in itself is a root cause of a number of human rights violations” according to the Danish Institute of Human Rights (DIHR).

As the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) is the most marginalized and has been suffering from structural injustices for so long it is thus relevant to study this framework of development.

Realizing the right to development

Arjun Sengupta, an expert on RAD, argued that the right to development is actually a right to the process of development which means: “the constant improvement of the well-being of the entire population and of all individuals, on the basis of their actions, free and meaningful participation in development and fair distribution of benefits resulting therefrom.”

Under this framework, the state as a duty-holder is duty-bound to create a condition where development may be realized. It must guarantee an accountable political institution in eliminating poverty, inequalities and exclusion where it could maximize fiscal and human resources, effective delivery of public goods and services, making infrastructure services responsive and relevant among others; and under an environment where individual/people’s participation is guaranteed.

Taking the first step to development

In this study, we focus on ARMM’s electoral process since it is where constituent’s participation and the formation of a political institution converge. It is the process where if participation is denied, accountability cannot be expected. Under this framework we can examine whether the national government (NG) has fulfilled its duty in creating a condition where development may be realized. This is because development will take its first step in n accountable political entity.

In the ARMM’s election, there is a constructive and systematic exclusion of its constituent’s participation. While it is true that election is held the electorate is not the real power that put candidates in its elective offices. The election is not free since the constituency has no freedom to choose. First, the Regional Governor is predetermined by Malacañang’s anointment; this has been the practice and scenario since the creation of ARMM. Second, the constituency is forced to yield to the politics of guns, goons, and gold. The latter holds true in other elective positions as well as ARMM’s local unit.

Additionally, election therein has been postponed eight times (no less than by the Congress) in order to give way to the call of political convenience. By doing so the term of offices of the ARMM’s officials were unduly extended without the benefit of election.

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