In January to March 2005, the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) will host a series of lunchtime meetings to examine the relevance of human rights in poverty reduction. It will build on the 1999 series that ODI held at a time when a growing number of aid agencies, including the UK Department for International Development (DFID), were starting to develop and adopt policy statements on human rights. (For a synthesis of findings from the series see Maxwell, 1999.) The end of the Cold War, the growing consensus on a multi-dimensional conception of poverty as central to development, and greater attention paid to state institutions created a favourable context for making use of the international, regional and national human rights frameworks as a part of mainstream development and humanitarian assistance.
This meeting series will bring together leading experts from different, and often opposing, perspectives to promote constructive dialogue and enhance mutual understanding. The underlying issues for debate revolve around the multi-disciplinarity of human rights. In particular, lawyers and economists seldom read each others’ work, let alone speak to each other. Peter Uvin concluded that: ‘One of the most important challenges facing scholars and activists is to develop a language, a framework, a methodology for conversations between economic thinking and rights thinking’ (Uvin, 2004). The series will seek to contribute to this dialogue covering a range of disciplines.
This series is also an opportunity to launch ODI’s Rights in Action Group, a multi-disciplinary team of researchers aiming to identify the practical contribution of rights to development and humanitarian assistance.