Youths debate on whether human rights and culture should be included the Post 2015 Agenda

18 Oct 2012

(Suva, Fiji) - Two student teams from the University of the South Pacific (USP) yesterday debated on whether human rights and culture should be integrated in the post 2015 development agenda.

The event was jointly organized by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and USP to mark the International Day for Eradication of Poverty.

The debate was on the topic “Human Rights and culture should be integrated in the post 2015 development agenda.” It formed the second round of debates on the post 2015 development agenda held at USP, following the first round in May this year.

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are a set of eight goals agreed to by world leaders in 2000 that aim to free humanity from extreme poverty, diseases and illiteracy. While there have been varying degrees of achievement of the MDGs across the globe and in the Pacific, it is broadly acknowledged that MDGs were powerful in galvanizing international development efforts. The MDGs will come to an end in 2015 and the debate on how to establish new global development goals is now underway.

“The new set of goals will need to be broad and deal with social, economic and environmental issues. The new set of global development targets and indicators would signify an even more historic shift, embracing a more balanced and equal world, where we all have things to learn and in which all countries, crucially, are still developing. For this to become a reality, we depend on a healthy and inclusive global debate to create goals that serves the interests of all peoples,” said the UNDP Resident Representative and UN Resident Coordinator, Knut Ostby yesterday.

Youths Make a Case for Measureable targets

The student team arguing for the motion made a strong case that the MDGs were based on human rights and there was no reason to exclude them from the next set of development goals.  The team cited Articles 25 and 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and said that the 8 MDG goals were inspired from these.

The Article 25 covers the right to an adequate standard living including provisions of  adequate food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services for health right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances the control of individuals. Article 25 also covers protection for mothers and children. Article 26 covers the right to education.

The team made up of undergraduate students Anishni Chand, Mohammed Ishaq, Ashqeen Hassan and Ruveni Gacala, said that there was no reason to exclude the human rights based goals from the next development agenda.

On the issue of culture, the team argued that all cultures espoused the common values of peace, harmony and sharing. They said these should be integrated in the post 2015 development agenda to ensure an equitable sharing of resources which would address poverty and improve the well-being of people.

The team arguing against the motion made a stronger case regarding the measurability of human rights targets and the conflict between human rights and culture. The team said that one of the biggest tensions between human rights and culture was that human rights were about individual rights whereas culture and cultural entitlements belonged collectively to a group of people.

The team said that cultural practices did not belong in the business domain and would create space for corruption and further undermine the disadvantaged. An example cited was that of corruption which took place when cultural obligations of taking care of community members were brought into the workplace.  The team said that it was not uncommon in the Pacific to see government ministers or people in positions of authority employing people from their villages or communities in their offices.

The team also argued that including culture in the post 2015 development agenda would create confusion given the diversity of cultures globally. An example of circumcision was cited. The team highlighted that this was of cultural importance to some communities, including some in the Pacific, but seen as human rights violations by other communities.

The team further argued that if human rights indicators were included in the post 2015 development agenda, there were no concrete means of measuring these. The team emphasized that including human rights targets and culture in the post 2015 development agenda would water down the urgency of fighting poverty. This team won the debate. The team members included Ofa Solimailagi, Dreli Solomon, Jason Titifanue and Robinson Chand.

The teams were judged on their delivery and quality of argument by a panel of judges composed of  Resina Katafono (Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat), Ahmed Moustafa (UNDP Pacific Centre), David Smith (UN ESCAP) and Nilesh Prakash (Government of Fiji).  

The debate was attended by students and academics at USP, development professionals and members of the general public.

Contact Information

Shobhna Decloitre, UNDP Communications Specialist on or (679) 3300399