South-South forum attendees praise human rights progress

Experts who will attend this week’s South-South Human Rights Forum have acknowledged China’s development progress and the country’s efforts to improve the human rights of its people.

“Development is an absolute necessity for improving human rights and China gave a historical example of how a country can efficiently tackle issues of people’s basic needs and security”, said Lionel Alain Vairon, a senior researcher at the Charhar Institute, a think tank that has its headquarters in Beijing.

No one can deny the fact that four decades of reforms in China have brought hundreds of millions of Chinese people out of absolute poverty, Vairon said, adding that this is no doubt the first step toward improving the human rights of the people.

Vairon is among about 100 officials and scholars from more than 70 countries and United Nations agencies in China who are expected to attend the two-day forum, which begins Tuesday in Beijing. Before the meeting, they visited Shanghai and Hangzhou, the capital of Zhejiang province.

The forum is a gathering of members of the UN’s South-South cooperation framework, which comprises dozens of developing nations.

“I believe the most important asset of China is to show not ‘the way’ but ‘a way’ toward development and therefore toward improving (cooperation on) human rights in the South,” Vairon said.

He added that the Belt and Road Initiative could be a major policy in terms of accelerating development and improving human rights in member countries.

The best thing about China’s development is that it is gradual, phased, well-planned and not moving forward haphazardly, said Irfan Shahzad Takalvi, president of Pakistan’s Eurasian Century Institute.

People across geographic and ethnic divides are reaping the benefits of China’s development and enjoying a higher quality of life, all indicative of increased fulfillment of human rights, he said.

Karim Ghezraoui, an official with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said China’s experience in development, such as combating extreme poverty, could be beneficial to other nations in South-South cooperation.

He said the cooperation is a welcome initiative as it seeks collaboration for a better international order and solidarity, and fosters nations’ support for each other in realizing the aims of the UN charter.

Takalvi said developing countries should establish global, regional and subregional platforms for debate on human rights.

They should make it clear that “one size does not fit all”, he added.

Pablo Berti Oliva, a human rights official in Cuba’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said China has long had ties with nations in the cooperation.

He said collaboration is not only about the transfer of technology or financial assistance, but also about helping each other to develop and share effective practices.

Oliva called for nations in the group to be united and develop a strong voice in the international arena regarding human rights issues.