Wednesday, January 2, 2008

I am here because I have a purpose

(Nyo sent me her final term paper on the public administration course in Columbia University last three years ago. She won a score of 20/20 in this paper. Congratulation Nyo!! I am also happy to present your simple and abstruse thoughts in my blog. Even though it lasts three years, your thoughts seem to be still fresh for contemporary Burma)


After your consultancy in Erewhon ends you fly home to take up your full-time dream position elsewhere. On the plane you are fortunate enough to be offered an upgrade to first class, and you find yourself chatting with your two seatmates, who turn out - to your astonishment - to be a multi-millionaire husband-and-wife couple whose foundation actually paid for your short-term position in Erewhon. The husband and wife start arguing about whether or not it is a good idea for them to push the Erewhon community group to take a rights-based approach to the problems faced by the Ruramin community. The husband says of course they should take a rights-based approach, but then it turns out that he's not entirely sure what he means by that other than a “moral” approach. The wife says that she thinks that the whole notion of human rights and development is 1) too vague to be useful, 2) an imposition of Northern culture on Southern communities, and 3) too political for a group that's trying to deal with basic development issues.
Then they both turn to you and ask your opinion. What do you say to this couple about whether or not you think it's a good idea for a community group like the one you worked with to take on a rights-based approach? (It’s fine either to give your honest opinion or instead to choose one side or the other and simply explore all of the arguments that support that position.) Please be sure to explain your reasoning and arguments either way.

Answer: A journey with Bill and Melinda Gates, my seat mates

Nyo: “Melinda, in my honest opinion, I will say it is a good idea to take on the rights-based approach. At a glance, it is true that the right-based approach seem to be vague to be useful. However, I believe if we are very technical in this approach, it will not be that ambiguous”

Bill: “I appreciate it because I am always a technical man. How you can be technical in rights-based approach?”

Nyo: The first technical tool we can do for rights-based approach is monitoring and evaluation by the indicators. In adopting the rights based approach, the state has never to be retrogressive. Indicators that reflect the health status of the population, the responsiveness and equity of a health system can be strong evidence that the state is really taking steps.

Melinda: Nyo, in this sense, all the developing countries that have a poor score on your indicators seem to violate human rights.

Nyo: This is a very good question. We always need the baseline data for comparisons in our indicators analysis. I like to add what we are doing about the indicators is not only quantitative but we will also do a lot of qualitative. For example, we can collect the HIV prevalence rate from the voluntary counseling test (VCT) but we need to ask interview questions to CSWs how the health workers are treating them. Does the discrimination against CSWs in culture make them difficult for access to health care? I can give more examples if you like to listen.

Bill: Great, Nyo. Continue please.

Nyo: Another good example is from my homeland Burma where the children are regarded as not valuable according to the culture of Burmese society. So children are not nourished properly when the household economics is managed in their budget constraint. Adults are given more and better food because they are regarded as more worthy beings. The state party has to make sure that there is not such kind of unsound discriminatory practices in the society and has to make effective legislative measures for such kind of things.

Melinda: Yes. I know Burma and also I know that the third secretary general of UN, U Thant of Burma. I have ever read in the literature that U Thant’s greatest desire in his life is development of child literature in Burma. It seems to me that your society doesn’t take care a lot for your children.

Nyo: Another technical tool we can apply is the budget analysis. We can put this budget analysis into a framework to see whether the allocation of budget is really addressing the needs of the society. The principles of non-discrimination in resource allocation will be powerful influence if we adopt the rights-based approach that will be monitored by the principles of transparency and accountability

Melinda: Interesting, what else?

Nyo: We have technical principles to monitor whether or not the state is doing properly or not. For example, progressive realization, taking steps forward, never to retrogress, to use maximal available resources, legislative remedy measures for process rights that will bind the state party to build up capacity of the people for their entitlement as well as rights-holders for their obligation of fulfillment

Melinda: Marvelous, Nyo! But frankly speaking, the rights-based approach seems to me that the Northern culture is imposing its standards on the southern community.

Nyo: This is a question of cultural relativism in issue of human rights. However, the UDHR in its origin is contributed by scholars of different continents. Actually the culture is dynamic. We should remember America and Europe had to enlighten themselves many times before getting into this stage of democracy and good governance. Besides, I believe the UDHR, the most fundamental document of human rights reflects the fundamental spiritual value of human beings and it is not exclusively in the sense of Europe Individualism.

Bill: I like to listen to you how you can defend self-determination as exclusively Western culture or the fundamental value of all human beings.

Nyo: Of course, there is a great research which compared many identical fundamental values of human beings and they could testify that self-determination is not the Western exclusive model and fundamental model of all Darwinians.

Melinda: Nyo, I still think, the rights-approach is too political to be done.

Nyo: Melinda, political commitment is the most important point for the success and sustainability of the national programs and development cooperation. What we are doing as right-based approach is we are trying to nail down the political commitment of good governance. I acknowledge it is also a sensitive issue to use the language of rights. However, we can be well-talented players for maintaining the balance between the progressive realization of human rights and not sensitizing the issue. We can go in positive attitude that we really believe the government is a good one for political commitment to do our expected behavior of rights-based approach. We are not making a revolution by taking on rights-based approach. Instead we are doing constructive criticism for getting good from the government that we really believe as a good government.

Bill: I appreciate it very much. At first, I think human rights are just a moral approach.

In the hands of a talented player, it becomes a powerful tool for development.

Nyo: It is up to the person who knows how to apply it. Like the concept of Taoism in Chinese martial arts, even a foliate of leaf becomes a sharp sword if the expert knows how to use it.

Melinda: You, Asian people are so fantastic! I also saw in the movie of “Hero” (Not that of Mel Gibson but Jet Li’s hero), the person who reaches the top of the sword martial arts becomes a sword himself.

Nyo: Actually this is the same principle as Jonathan Livingstone Sea gull of Richard Bach. Both are saying the power of mind beyond practice. This can also be an exemplary of cross-cut of Asia and America Darwinians.

Bill: I think there are many cross-cuts of Asia and America values in this arena of globalization. In our Hollywood movie of “matrix revolution”, I find out that the philosophy behind the matrix uses principles of Sunyata (emptiness) of Buddhism.

Nyo: Of course, the matrix is also a human rights movie. Neo is not to be influenced by the violator’s power when he has enlightenment that delivers him from illusion. A Sudanese human rights activist, Professor Abdul from the Emory Law School, is one of the staunch supporters of this concept. The power of the violator is strong only when the victims think his power is tremendous. This is the same principle as Napoleon Hill’s saying “behavior reflection from environment creates your behavior”. This is what we are doing for in all our rights-based policy to convince people to realize that they have the power of the rule of law to restrict the arbitrary power of the state.

Melinda: I remember Oracle said to Neo in Matrix Revolution. “I am here because I have a purpose”. I am convinced now you rights-based men have a very good purpose

Nyo: Thanks. Melinda. I will remember “I am here because I have a purpose”.


Anonymous said...

Yes! Burmakin.

The simple things are the most difficult!


ကလိုေစးထူး said...

I visited here and tried to read for understanding all coz i have poor English. :D
But i really appreciated for this blog. Carry on.
Best regards

MG said...

Orme Wee Lee Ra, Ko Klosay Htoo.(Have you eaten your repast? in Karen Language)

Find for my friend,Burmakin- another of his name is Chainn Pa (target at some girl and always carried away by sb else),a Karen girl.



Ka Daung Nyin Thar said...

Hi Burmakin,

Welcome to the world of blogs!

You are, I believe, one of the rare talented Burmese and I believe you could bring and share knowledge to the fellow Burmese.

Knowledge will make us alive!

Ka daung Nyin Thar (a) Dancing Peacock

MG said...

Ko Kadaung water(re),

Burmakin and I feel very hungry to attend your new house celebration.Just see these delicious images and we can't eat.Thank you for that you don't charge us for sensing the Burmese food.