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Saturday, September 5, 2009

JJ addresses Oslo University

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Address by Flt Lt Jerry John Rawlings (Rtd) former President of Ghana at the University of Oslo, Norway on the topic ³Achieving human centred development in Africa: Possibilities and challenges Thursday September 4, 2009

Distinguished guests

Ladies and gentlemen

I have been asked to address you on the topic of Achieving human centred development in Africa: Possibilities and challenges. Why is this topic of relevance and why does this debate rage on? In order to address this issue, one needs to look at the emergence of the issue of development in Africa.

I conceptualize human centred development as development from below. That is development, which is geared toward bringing the greatest benefits to a people and assisting them in developing and canalizing their innate human potential in a positive direction. A human-centred development is development that puts people at the centre as opposed to development based on unbridled, competitive and money-centred capitalism based on abstract economic models that often relegate the well being of the individual to the background. A human centred development acknowledges the individual as a resource and demands the development and implementation of policies that will make it possible to harness and harvest this resource to the fullest.

Africa is endowed with abundant human and mineral resources, but remains one of the poorest regions of the world. While the forces of globalization have unleashed development in certain parts of the developing world, particularly in Asia and Latin America, Africa is marginalized and remains a mere appendage to the global economy. We can identify pockets of development in Africa in countries such as Botswana and Ghana. However, the fact remains that Africa as a whole is lagging behind when it comes to the benefits of globalization.

Africa is plagued with a catalogue of problems that detract from the development of its huge human resources. For there to be a true human-centred development, the nature of these problems has to be understood so as to develop and implement relevant policies to alleviate them.

I will dwell briefly on some of these hydra-headed problems in the context of globalisation and how they detract from Africa¹s efforts to harness and harvest its huge human resources for a sustainable human-centred development. Issues such as: * Poverty * Illiteracy/ignorance * Disease * Environmental degradation * Poor governance / * Oppression of women * Ethnic strife/ethnic allegiances informing party politics * Unfair trade

A sustainable and human centred development demands the development and implementation of policies that will bring about the alleviation of poverty, disease, illiteracy, and ignorance, and environmental degradation, and engender gender equality, civil rights, and the empowerment of women. How can Africa achieve this in the context of globalization?

Globalisation is for many an economic occurrence involving increased interaction and integration through the growth of international trade, investment and capital flows. Conceptually, I am inclined to believe that this definition is the idealist one and what proponents of globalisation will stand by. One can also refer to globalisation as being directly linked to the increase in international cultural and technological exchange leading to mutual benefits.

Globalisation when harnessed appropriately can be a major tool in achieving human centred development by first eradicating the challenges identified above. Governments will then have to develop policies, which ensure that the creation of talent is not based on a wholesale importation of Western standards, but one that recognises the socio-cultural and socio-political uniqueness of individual countries.

In their very first Human Development Report (1990), the United Nations summarised the change of thinking in terms of African development as follows in the introductory paragraph:

³(Human Development) is about people - and about how development enlarges their choices. It is more than GNP growth, more than income and wealth and more than producing commodities and accumulating capital. A person's access to income may be one of the choices, but it is not the sum total of human endeavour.²

However, the introduction of this report was not the start of a movement towards the introduction of human centred development in Africa. I will not comment on developments in other countries, but will share some experiences that I lived through in Ghana.

By 1979 Ghana was in a total mess after successive failures by both military and civilian governments. Within the ranks of the military as well as the ranks of the academia a call came for change so that the needs of the neglected majority the poor and under serviced can be addressed. This was indeed a call for human based development and governance. The events of 4 June 1979 and 31 December 1982 followed this call, and changed the course that Ghana was on at that stage forever.

Globalisation, or capitalism, entered the developing world at about the same time. Under pressure from the West, Ghana underwent various programmes from the Economic Recovery Programme (ERP) to the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) and recently we have been so-called beneficiaries of the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative as well as the Millennium Development Fund. Some of these are instruments of globalisation, and thus ostensibly give the semblance of ³free market² initiative and ³support² to developing countries.

Enough has been said and written about the failures of the Triad (World Trade Organisation, World Bank and International Monetary Fund) and their instruments of development support, and indications are that a change in their approach and thinking may be on the cards. These changes seem to be skewed in favour of a more ³human based² approached to development.

The other side of this coin is of course the attitude and thinking of some of our African leaders, or governments. If a government is in favour of globalisation (unchecked free market forces), the need to put pressure on the West to change their thinking diminishes. This became very obvious during the eight-year rule of the NPP in Ghana between 2001 and 2009.

When the NDC was formed prior to the 1992 elections the issue of ³human based governance and development² was very much at the centre of the debate of the party¹s constitution. The devastating effects of unbridled and unchecked capitalism and the international failure of socialism were at the two ends of the scale. Both were seemingly unacceptable. The only logical option was the middle ground that was gaining popularity at the time, namely social democracy for which the Nordic countries are well known.

Social democracy was born after the rise of socialism and an increasing concern that pure socialism was not necessarily the antidote for pure capitalism. The problem with uncontrolled capitalism was identified as one where the ³common good² could very easily be forgotten. This neglect of the ³common good² as expressed by the majority of the population has in the past led to revolutions and the violent overthrow of governments and rulers.

Social democracy identified the solution as one where a party must be appointed as the guardian of the Ĺ’common good¹. As guardian of this ³common good² the appointed party will fulfill the role of both watchdog over capitalism and instrument to make sure that the ³common good² as expressed by the majority of people is clearly heard and adhered to. This approach is the building block of the formation of the NDC prior to the 1992 elections in Ghana, and it is the foundation upon which it governs Ghana today.

The first step to achieve a human centred development in Africa is therefore for the social democrats to clearly educate the people within their borders on the dramatic impact that their votes may have on their lives, and that neither pure socialist nor pure capitalist parties can ensure the maintenance and development of the ³common good², or the true will of the people.

The second step to achieve a human centred development is to establish a democracy that is subject to a constitution that in turn ensconces the basic human rights of the people, and that clearly defines the roles of the institutions that will safeguard the ³common good². The 1992 Constitution of Ghana clearly defines the roles of the Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary and stresses the separation of powers - that is the independence of both the Legislature and the Judiciary from the Executive.

The experience in Ghana during the rule of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) between 2001 and 2009 clearly indicated that even though the second step Constitution - was in place, massive influence over both the Legislature and Judiciary by the Executive led to a corrupt and abused system and a breakdown in the value of democracy. Although the NDC won by a large margin, the results were announced as a narrow margin victory. Had the NPP been allowed get away with their thievery in 2008/09, the world might have seen their ³symbol of democracy and stability² turn into a ³reality of the power of the common good².

This leads me to the third step to achieve human centred development. The people of Ghana and many other developing countries will not tolerate interference with the ³common good² or the ³will of the people². Election rigging and manipulation must be eliminated. This nearly crippled Kenya, and could so easily have turned very nasty in Ghana.

The next step to ensure human centred development is the devolution of powers the lowest possible level. Despite the decentralisation efforts of the NDC and its predecessor, many communities feel that they are still left in the dark and that they are voiceless. Ghana and nations that truly want to protect the ³common good² must ensure that the voices of all the people are heard not only during election times, but during planning and implementation of development programmes.

Another important change that is required in the thinking of governments is a shift away from ³national security² towards ³human security². Very few countries in Africa are under threat of attack from outside nations. The threat is much bigger internally. The neglect (and continued neglect) of addressing real issues of poverty, food insecurity, environmental deprivation and other issues that directly impact on the ³common good² of the people is today¹s threat.

The eight years of the immediate past government exposed a regime that totally neglected the ³common good² by causing hardships through avoidable energy crises, unprepared and ill equipped disaster management units, inability to stem rising crime and open allowance of drug smuggling. Alongside this arrogant and unashamed self-enrichment and massive corruption were public knowledge and continued with impunity. The NPP eventually paid the price through the ³will of the people², but the country and the rest of Africa could have paid a price that is too ghastly to contemplate.

Ladies and gentleman, I have not addressed the subject of achieving human centred development in Ghana to its full extent. I have touched on the necessity for a social democratic approach to counter the negative impact of unchecked capitalism, a constitution that ensconce human rights and separation of powers, free and fair elections, the true devolution of powers and a shift in thinking from ³National² to ³Human².

I would like to conclude by stating categorically that the true challenge is to find, develop and nurture the true leaders that must drive development and to make sure that they fill the positions of power. Those are the men and women with a deep passion to ensure the freedom of all the people of the nation while fully understanding that freedom has a price to, namely accountability and probity. True leaders understand that freedom demands from institutions and individuals to face the consequences of actions that harmed or intend to harm the ³common good². True leaders also understand that a character of probity (goodness, decency, honesty, integrity, honour, good virtues) cannot be compromised, and will not be compromised or accepted from any institution or any individual.

I thank you, and may God bless us all.

Visit Former President Rawlings¹ blog site - http://jjrawlings.wordpress.com/

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