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Building a Community with a Shared Future for Human Beings: New Opportunity for South-South Human Rights Development
June 28,2018   By:CSHRS

Building a Community with a Shared Future for Human Beings: New Opportunity for South-South Human Rights Development

Overview of the First South-South Human Rights Forum

QI Mingjie*

Abstract: From December 7 to December 8, 2017, the State Council Information Office and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs jointly organized the first South-South Human Rights Forum in Beijing. With the topic of “Building a Community with a Shared Future for Human Beings: New Opportunity for South-South Human Rights Development,” participants conducted in-depth discussions on topics including “global human rights governance”, “inclusive development and South-South human rights cooperation”, “China and the South-South cooperation”, “right to education for the countries of the Global South” and “poverty reduction, right to food and right to health”,which achieved great consensuses and yielded results. This Forum was the first time that countries of the Global South have jointly discussed human rights issues.

In order to discuss the major development plans for the cause of human rights in developing countries and the world, consolidate the consensus of the vast number of developing countries on human rights issues, promote the development of global human rights governance in a more just and rational direction, and also push South-South cooperation to a deeper level, the State Council Information Office and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs co-hosted the first South-South Human Rights Forum in Beijing on December 7 and 8, 2017. Chinese President Xi Jinping sent a congratulatory letter to the forum and Mr. Huang Kunming, Member of the Political Bureau and the Secretariat of the CPC Central Committee, Minister of the Publicity Department of the CPC Central Committee, attended the opening ceremony of the forum and read President Xi Jinping’s congratulatory letter and delivered a speech. More than 300 senior officials, experts and scholars, and foreign diplomats from nearly 80 countries and international organizations, including the United Nations, attended the forum.With “Building a Community with a Shared Future for Human Beings: New Opportunity for South-South Human Rights Development” as the theme, the forum had six sub-forums on topics such as “Building a Community with a Shared Future for Human Beings and promoting global human rights governance”, “Inclusive development and South-South human rights”, “Realization of the right to education in South-South countries”, “Poverty reduction and securing the right to food in Global South countries”, “China and South-South cooperation: an important role in promoting global human rights cause” and “Realization of the right to health in Global South countries”. The China International Development Knowledge Center, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Agriculture, the Poverty Alleviation Office of the State Council, the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade, the State Health and Family Planning Commission and other departments hosted sub-forums with topics related to their duties. Wang Yi, Minister for Foreign Affairs of China, Irtiz Behler, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Suriname, Sade Alfarage, Special Rapporteur of the United Nations Human Rights Council on the Right to Development, Tom Zwart, Director of the Intercultural Centre for Human Rights at the Free University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands, spoke at the opening ceremony respectively.

T he forum was the first human rights pageant with the countries of the Global South as the main body. It not only further united the participants and strengthened their solidarity on human rights issues, but also helped give more ideological and spiritual impetus to South-South cooperation. The forum discussed ways and programs for developing countries to promote their own human rights development and actively participate in global human rights governance, which is of great importance and far-reaching significance. Each of the six sub-forums carried out in-depth explorations on the theme of building a Community with a Shared Future for Human Beings from different perspectives. Each undertaking unit drew up the design and meticulously organized its own work, so that human rights issues can be closely integrated with the actual situation in related fields at both the macro and micro level, laying the foundation for the forum to achieve good results. The Beijing Declaration, which was adopted at the end of the forum, reflects the forum’s ideological achievements and also reflected the collective view of human rights of the vast number of developing countries. The participants spoke highly of the Declaration, saying that it fully reflects the human rights outlook of the Global South, conforms to the reality of human rights development in countries of the South, and reflects the aspirations of the countries of the South. It is a good start for South-South human rights cooperation. At the end of the forum, many participants expressed the view that the South-South Human Rights Forum should be built into an annual institutionalized platform for cooperation in different countries of the South to assess progress in democracy and human rights in the countries of the South, and challenges in global human rights governance.

The forum was also a feast of ideas on how to better develop South-South cooperation in the field of human rights, sharing experiences, introducing situations, and offering advice on how to lead global human rights governance with the concept of a Community with a Shared Future for Human Beings, and how to advance the protection of human rights in the countries of the South, and has reached consensus and achieved important results. A summary of the forum and the views of the participants is as follows:

Ⅰ. The Congratulatory Message from President Xi Jinping to the Forum Aroused a Strong Response Among the Guests at the Meeting

In his congratulatory message, President Xi Jinping congratulated the forum, stressed that the development of human rights worldwide cannot be achieved without the joint efforts of developing countries, and expressed the hope that the international community respect and reflect the will of the people in developing countries in the spirit of justice, fairness, openness and inclusiveness, promote the people of developing countries to enjoy more human rights and achieve common prosperity and development for all mankind. Xi Jinping pointed out that the full enjoyment of human rights for all is a great dream of human society. Since modern times, the people of developing countries have made long-term struggles and efforts to strive for national liberation andnational independence, obtain freedom and equality, enjoy dignity and happiness, and realize peace and development, and have made great contributions to the development of the world’s human rights. Xi Jinping stressed that following a people-centered development philosophy, the Communist Party of China (CPC) and the Chinese government have all along placed people’s interests above all else,and worked hard to meet people’s desire for a better life and improve respect for and protection of the fundamental rights of the Chinese people. The 19th CPC National Congress convened not long ago outlined an ambitious blueprint for China’s development, which will give a strong boost to human rights development in China and make new and even greater contribution to the progress of mankind. Xi Jinping pointed out that currently, the population of developing countries accounts for more than 80% of the world’s population. In the meantime, human rights must and can only be promoted in light of specific national conditions and people’s needs. Developing countries should uphold both the universality and particularity of human rights and steadily raise the level of human rights protection. The Chinese people would like to work in concert with people in other developing countries and beyond to advance development through cooperation, promote human rights through development, and building a Community with a Shared Future for Human Beings.

The participants spoke highly of President Xi Jinping’s congratulatory letter. They said that President Xi Jinping’s congratulatory letter fully reflected the aspirations of the people of the developing world, and also fully reflected the persistent pusuit and mission of President Xi Jinping to promote the development of the world’s human rights cause and to build a community of human destinies. A Community with a Shared Future for Human Beings provides a new perspective for the development of human rights in Global South countries and plays an important leading role in the common prosperity and development of all mankind. Participants also said that the development of the world human rights cause cannot be separated from the joint participation of the countries of the South. From the human rights perspective, the power of speak has long been dominated by the West, but the South-South human rights dialogue attracted representatives from more than 70 countries. The dialogue has its significance as it enabled developing countries to find a common language in the field of human rights through face-to-face exchanges of ideas. While enriching the connotation of human rights, we should make more consistent voice, especially highlight the fundamental position of development in the cause of human rights.

Ⅱ. Expound the Great Significance of Building a Community with a Shared Future for Human Beings to the Global Human Rights Governance and the Guarantee of Human Rights in Countries of the South

“Building a Community with a Shared Future for Human Beings” is not only the theme of this forum, but also the theme of the first sub-forum, which is the central idea throughout the forum. Participants made in-depth discussions focusing on the background, theoretical connotations, practical significance, its relationship with human rights protection and other aspects of the concept of building a Community with a Shared Future for Human Beings, and achieved a series of results.

A. Expounding on the background of the times with the idea of building a community with a shared future for human beings

Participant s noted that in the current world, countries are becoming more interdependent, but the world is becoming more complex and challenging. The borders between countries are becoming more and more blurred, and no country can develop on its own. The rise of conservatism and religious extremism, populism, the crisis and challenges faced by liberal democracies and the lack of solid governance foundations, inadequate participation and a large number of redundant legal systems, less prominent diversity and many other problems exist in global human rights governance. This is the alienation of human rights governance, and also reflects the deep internal contradictions in the process of human rights development. The concept of building a Community with a Shared Future for Human Beings is not a negation of the existing institutions and order, but a heritage and innovation of the purposes and principles of the United Nations, which is completely consistent with the objectives of the United Nations in maintaining peace and development. It reminds us that in an age of interconnectedness, nations are no longer able to deal with global challenges in their own way, and should build a sense of common destiny and mutual cooperation, and resolve disputes peacefully.

B. Expounding on the great significance of building a community with a shared future for human beings to the promotion of global human rights governance.

The idea of building a Community with a Shared Future for Human Beings proposes building a fairer, more inclusive and generally beneficial world. It emphasiz es that the international community should guarantee human rights through dialogue and cooperation, focuses on creating new opportunities for the development of third-generation human rights and the concept of human rights, stresses the need for a non-discriminatory trading system with greater openness, transparency and inclusiveness, ensures greater trade opportunities and connectivity and promotes economic development for all. It emphasizes that to take full advantage of technological advancement to overcome racial and cultural differences, to ensure that society moves in the direction of equality and to help people better protect their human rights and human dignity. Regional conflicts should be resolved peacefully through the United Nations to ensure regional peace and stability. States should determine the development path of human rights in accordance with their own cultural traditions and basic national conditions, without external interference. Human rights should not be made as an instrument of punishment, and double standards should not be adopted. The idea of building a Community with a Shared Future for Human Beings reflects that China has gradually changed from passive receiver of international human rights rules to active participant. It forms the relationship with the Belt and Road Initiative as abstraction and concreteness, concept and path, and highly agrees with the peaceful idea of common security of the United Nations, and points out the way to a world full of uncertainty.

C. Points out that the concept of building a community with a shared future for human beings accords with the development direction of the theory of human rights.

Guests believed that the Community with a Shared Future for Human Beings was of great significance to the global outlook of human rights. Among them, the guidance to the first generation of human rights lies in harmony among difference. We respect democracy in the West, and we also believe that the best system is one that suits our own country. The guidance to the second generation of human rights lies in the pursuit of the whole world as one community. It is not enough to satisfy the economic rights of one country. Cooperation among the countries of the South is required to solve the problems of development. The guidance for the third generation of human rights lies in the inclusiveness. From the individual civil and political rights to the economic, social and cultural rights of the state, and then to the integration of these rights as a whole to build a Community with a Shared Future for Human Beings, achieve harmony and cooperation among nations through the rights of development and peace. As the third generation of human rights, the right to development, the right to peace and the right to environment have the relevance of the subject, the compounding of the rights and the recognition of the value, which precisely reflects the essential characteristics of the Community with a Shared Future for Human Beings. It also makes a major difference from the previous two generations of human rights.

Ⅲ. Study on the Significance of Promoting South-South Cooperation in the Field of Human Rights and China’s Important Contribution to the South-South Cooperation

At the sub-forum entitled “China and S outh-South Cooperation—an Important Role in Advancing the Cause of World Human Rights”, participants reviewed the development of South-South cooperation and China’s exemplary role in South-South cooperation and conceived the prospects and paths for further advancing South-South cooperation, especially in the field of human rights. The importance of ensuring human rights in the context of South-South cooperation was also noted.

A. Articulate the current necessity and urgency of conducting South-South cooperation in the field of human rights

Guests pointed out that for many years, Western countries have used human rights as a geopolitical tool to pursue their own interests, to destabilize developing countries by politicizing human rights issues and applying human rights double standards, and to impose their own ideas and values on others and interpret the obligations and responsibilities of human rights arbitrarily. Better protection of human rights requires regional and international cooperation, especially the deepening of South-South cooperation. South-South cooperation not only provides many developing countries with new resources and channels, but also helps them to fully realize human development in innovative ways. Wei Liunan, a French Sinologist, pointed out that “Western society has double standards and is unfair in its human rights evaluations, but this is also the result of its long-term development and cannot be corrected with a single breath.” To change this situation, the vast majority of the Global South countries must act to strengthen their cooperation and use practical actions to enhance their persuasion.

B. Fully acknowledge China’s important contribution to South-South cooperation in the field of human rights and its exemplary role

For a long time, China has adhered to equality and mutual benefits, paid attention to effectiveness, long-term cooperation and common development, actively carried out equal and mutually beneficial economic and trade cooperation with developing countries, promoted regional economic cooperation and preferential trade, and continued to improve the liberalization and facilitation of South-to-South trade. Tom Zwart, Director of the Cross-Cultural Human Rights Centre in the Netherlands, pointed out that there is no precondition for China’s foreign aid, which is in sharp contrast with Western countries. Some guests from the participating Global South countries pointed out that China has successfully dealt with many similar challenges faced by their countries on human rights and accumulated rich experience. On the principle of mutual benefit, it has provided important assistance to the countries of the South in education, infrastructure construction, health and medical care, promoted the social and cultural rights of the people of the recipient countries, and set a good example for the South-South cooperation and the promotion of the development of human rights in Global South countries.

C. Global South countries should further strengthen the unity on human rights issues

South-South human rights cooperation is a turning point in the development of the world’s human rights cause and an important component of South-South Cooperation. The prevailing voices in the international community now come more from the West, and the voices of the South appear weak and scattered, which is unbalanced. Only when the countries of the South work together can the situation be effectively changed. Although the concept of human rights originates from the West, the countries of the South have an important influence on the international human rights discourse in the aspects of the system of human rights standards and the systems of human rights mechanism system. On how to advance South-South cooperation in the field of human rights, participants were of the view that the countries of the South also have strong advantages in the social sciences, were focused on cooperation in human rights education and training, conducting collaborative research on the concept of human rights, carefully exploring their origins, and faced the West more equitably. Cooperation among NGOs in the South on human rights should also be promoted, with mutual support and voice from the UN Human Rights Council and relevant international bodies.

Ⅳ. Explain the Inclusiveness, Autonomy and Diversity Inherent in the Development of Human Rights in Global South Countries

At the sub-forum “Realization of Inclusive Development and South-South Human Rights”, the participants discussed the conceptual origin and specific implications of inclusive development, its relationship with human rights and China’s achievements in this regard. At the same time, it expounded the views on the development of human rights in various countries, and pointed out that the development path of human rights is diverse, and each country should promote the protection of human rights according to its own national conditions.

The concept of inclusive development advocates that all countries and peoples benefit from the fruits of development and that the people enjoy development opportunities and outcomes equitably. Inclusive development is not only economic development, but also human development, in particular the realization of human rights, which promotes, complements and overlaps with the development of human rights, and vice versa. If human rights emphasize outcomes, inclusive development places more emphasis on ways and means; human rights have multi-level, multi-dimensional and multi-agent characteristics, and inclusive development emphasizes that everyone, every region and every country should not be left behind, and to achieve a holistic, comprehensive, fair and equitable, shared development. In recent years, China proceeded with the opening up in eastern coastal areas, and then promoted the development of its western region and carried out targeted poverty alleviation and poverty relief. The implementation of the Belt and Road Initiative, in particular, has not only achieved its own development, but also developed with the world, which interprets the connotation of inclusive development, and gives international significance to this concept.

On the path of hum an rights development in various countries, participants were of the view that the universality and independence of human rights should be taken into account as well as the specific characteristics of different regions, the level of development of countries and their practical capacity to promote human rights. In the course of promoting human rights, the views of governments should be respected, based on local realities, cooperation and mutual respect should be pursued, and every effort should be made to avoid conflict and confrontation. For China to make remarkable achievements on human rights, the key is that China unswervingly follows the path of human rights development with Chinese characteristics. This is a path based on national conditions, with the people as the center, development as the priority, the rule of law as the criterion, and openness as the driving force. The countries of the South also need to take into account the realities of national capacity-building and the right to development. With the development of the ages, the right to development is not only the relationship between the South and the North, but also the relationships among the countries of the South. The advantages of South-South Cooperation on the right to development include sharing ideas, respecting the right of each country to develop on its own, putting people first, emphasizing equal opportunities for development and insisting on pragmatic development.

Ⅴ. Explain the Importance of Guaranteeing the Right to Education and Point Out the Direction for South-South Cooperation in the Field of Education

The right to education is a fundamental, crucial and guiding human right, and an important guarantee for the realization of all human rights. China has the world’s largest education system. Over the years, China’s education has achieved remarkable results, at the same time, the protection of the right to education is ahead of economic development. “Realization of the Right to Education in South-South Countries” was discussed as a separate topic in this forum, which is innovative both in the field of South-South Cooperation and in the field of international educational cooperation. Participants at the forum exchanged views and talked about cooperation, and offered many insights on how to guarantee the realization of the right to education and how to develop South-South Cooperation in the field of education.Participants believed that the right to education was a part of human rights, a basic service provided by society, and an important means of promoting human development, economic, social and national development. The lack of the right to education prevents people from participating in effective economic, social, cultural and political activities and from effectively enjoying other rights. Shortage of Education is the cause of wide-ranging poverty and terrorism in the world. For the majority of developing countries, we must attach importance to education and start with education in order to achieve personal development and national progress, so educational cooperation should be given priority to development. Therefore, the construction of a high-quality education system is of great significance to the cultivation of national competitiveness and the development of the country. Strengthening cooperation on the right to education in the framework of South-South Cooperation is of special importance to developing countries.

For Southern countries, developing education should be people-oriented, adhere to their respective national conditions, instead of blindly pursuing so-called highend education. The reform of education should adhere to two routes: first, striving for “Double First-class” and cultivating high-level talents; second, we should go to the main battlefield of economic and social development, and make great efforts to strengthen practical education and vocational education. In the process of making a success of vocational education, we cannot blindly imitate the developed countries, but should give full consideration to the actual situations of the countries of the South, make good use of the complementary echelonment of countries of the South, and do a good job in South-South cooperation in vocational education. At the same time, under the framework of South-South cooperation, we should promote the professional protection of children’s rights, strengthen cooperation between social organizations for children protection, and lay a solid foundation for South-South cooperation.

Ⅵ. Explain the Poverty Reduction and Food Rights Protection in the Southern Countries and China’s Contribution to Poverty Reduction

At the sub-forum on “Poverty Reduction and Security of the Right to Food in South-South Countries”, participants expressed concern about the current global rise in poverty and hunger, to further develop South-South cooperation in this regard, free the peoples of the South from poverty, hunger and have a more dignified life.

A. South-South cooperation is an urgent priority for poverty alleviation and securing the right to food

Affected by regional conflicts and climate change in recent years, the incidence of global hunger has increased again after a long decline and the right to food has not been effectively guaranteed, global hunger is on the rise again. In 2016, the total number of underfed people in the world rose from 777 million in 2015 to 815 million, which poses a huge challenge to achieving zero hunger by 2030. This is due not only to food shortages, but also to discrimination and injustice that hinder access to food. Free trade and capital flows in the context of globalization have contributed to the concentration of wealth in a few countries, the extreme poverty exists in some vulnerable communities of transnational corporations, and effective protection of the rights of the majority to livelihood, food, health and education cannot be guaranteed. Thus, strengthening poverty reduction and the right to food security has become an urgent task for South-South Cooperation.

B. Clarify the direction of South-South cooperation in poverty alleviation and the right to food

The participants were of the view that in order to effectively safeguard food security and promote sustainable economic and social development, governments of all countries are required to work together with NGOs to continuously improve global governance to ensure food availability, accessibility and adequacy. It is necessary to continuously promote agricultural mechanization so as to make agricultural development and the right to food more sustainable. The participants said that the South-South Human Rights was timely, and that it truly reflected our strong determination and action to reduce poverty and free people from hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition. In particular, the forum focused on poverty reduction and food security, and people’s right to food, which not only leads people to focus on the right to food to address hunger and malnutrition, but also is also crucial for the promotion of human civilization and socio-economic development.

C. China’s policy advantages in poverty reduction and food rights protection and its contribution to South-South cooperation

As an advocate, practiti oner and promoter of the world poverty reduction cause and international human rights cause, China has actively supported and helped developing countries to eliminate poverty and actively supported and participated in South-South cooperation in the field of agriculture. In recent years, China has established agricultural technology demonstration centers, agricultural technology test stations and extension stations in more than 100 countries in Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Pacific area, and more than 30, 000 agricultural experts and technicians have been sent to work overseas, benefiting about 1 million farmers in developing countries. The great success of poverty reduction in China lies in its accumulation of experience and policy innovation in poverty reduction through its own exploration and practice. In the past 40 years, China has formed two major types of poverty alleviation policies: first, regional development, village promotion, accurate poverty alleviation and other policies related to poverty alleviation; Second, social security policies with various social security systems and targeted assistance to low income people. These will help the countries of the South to solve existing problems through the framework of South-South Cooperation.

Ⅶ. Exchange Experience on the Protection of Health Rights in Southern Countries

The right to health is a basic human right with broad content and the guarantee of human dignity. At the sub-forum on the “Realization of the right to health in South-South countries”, officials, scholars and representatives of the World Health Organization (WHO) from China and relevant countries in the South are engaged in lively discussions on the sub-issues and have achieved positive results.

A. The meaning of the right of health and its guarantee path

Participants pointed out that in international law, a relatively complete legal system to protect the right to health has been established. The right to health is not a guarantee of health for all, but a guarantee of access to healthy conditions, healthy goods and health-related goods and services. With the increasing interdependence of States, many human activities have spill-over effects, and States parties undertake not only to respect the right to health of persons within their jurisdiction, and also an obligation not to violate the right to health of other States and of all people globally. Embargoes or sanctions, for example, do not limit the supply of adequate medicines and medical equipment to a country, and cooperate in tackling global climate change and pollution management. For the countries of the South, to guarantee the right to health, it is necessary to match national capacity with national health security. It is necessary to find the matching point of development at home, and to learn from developed countries abroad. Developing countries should learn from each other so as to construct the most suitable health security system for themselves.

B. On the issue of the right to health

Participants identified health as a global challenge and advancing global health as an important component of the implementation of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda. There are still 1 billion people in the world suffering from lack of access to health services, and another 2.5 billion people have to pay high medical costs or fall into poverty. In this case, universal access to health services is particularly important. The World Health Organization has made universal access to health services part of the development agenda till 2030. The director-general of the World Health Organization has pointed out that achieving universal access to health services is not only an economic issue, but also a political one. China’s average life expectancy has risen to 76.5 in 2016, and health indicators are among the highest in the world. These advances have benefited from the China’s consistent adherence to the people-centered concept of development, the improvement of the people’s health as an important goal of development, and the fact that China has explored a path of health development that is suited to its national conditions.

(Translated by XU Chao)
 

* QI Mingjie ( 齐明杰 ), Ph.D. Candidate, Party School of the Central Committee of C.P.C. 

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