Sunday, 28 August 2016

the GPO - a journey down memory lane

Tehani Ariyaratne has posted this picture of the old GPO  which I am made to understand was one of the venues of this year's Colomboscope

The GPO was an important part of my growing up years - when incredibly we managed to thrive despite having neither television (not  in Sri Lanka till after 1977) nor the internet.  We had what we proudly called our 'hobbies' - so stamp collecting was one of mine.  Reading, was another. Corresponding with penpals (equivalent of facebook friends or twitter followers, I guess) was a third.

The GPO and its environs formed a pivotal part of my engagement with my 'hobbies'.  Frequently on a Sunday, my father would drive my sister and me to the Fort.  Often we would stop at the GPO because it was the only post office opened on a Sunday, and I would post my laboriously penned letters to my penpals.   The uncles (think they were always uncles) at the counter would weigh my epistle and then hand me the correct number of stamps which I had then to stick on to the envelope together with an airmail sticker (which had no glue so had to be stuck on with glue from a rather sinister looking gluepot)  and then give the letter back to the counter so that they could place the seal on the stamps (to prevent them being stolen was what I was told) and send the letter on its way. It would be about 4 weeks at the minimum before I would receive a reply!

We would also go to the GPO to buy 'first day covers' - when the government issued a new stamp they would  seal the stamp with the date of the first day of issue, all on a fancy envelope.  This was usually done with the usual fanfare and ceremony which received press coverage.  These first day covers were considered of particular value to stamp collectors and  became an integral part of my personal stamp collection, which, several decades and several house moves later, has now become irrevocably lost and irretrievable.

My father had letters to post too.  Mostly I remember the Christmas cards - sent by second class post way before Christmas so that they could be shipped (not airmailed) in time to reach their destinations for the festive season.

Almost always after the excursion to the GPO we would be taken to the GOH or Hotel Taprobane as it was called at different times.  Charles Subasinghe & Sons had a bookstall on the ground floor, and we would be allowed to browse among its shelves and choose a book to read.  My father would then sometimes take us to the Harbour Room where he would have a beer and a cigarette (or it could have been a G&T, I didn't really notice) and my sister and I  would have our orange barley or portello and start reading our books, while my father read his, or looked through a newspaper.

So glad the GPO is now open, and being used in some way. Am coming to terms that the Fort (Chatham Street is another whole story) is not the Fort of my childhood and raising my own G&T glass this Sunday to change!

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

The Human Rights avatar of the SDGs - the Right to Development

Yours truly is following a course on International Human Rights that has just introduced to us  the concept of the Right to Development.   The South Centre has just put out its South Bulletin No 93 of August 16,2016 devoted to the panel discussion in June this year at the Human Rights Council to celebrate 30th Anniversary of the adoption of the Right to Development by the United Nations General Assembly

Read with interest the presentation of Dr Mihir Kanade, Head of the Department of International La and Human Rights and Director of the Human Rights Centre on  Operationalising the Right to Development for Implementing the SDGs.  He describes the Right to Development as the Human Rights  avatar of the  SDGs, and makes 6 specific points on what operationalising the Right to Development would entail, summarised below using Dr Kanade's own words....

1. focusing not only on the outcomes which must result from the implementation of the 2030 agenda, but equally on the processes by which those outcomes must be achieved.
2. development, in order to be sustainable, must not be seen as a charity, privilege or generosity, but as a right of human beings everywhere

3. understanding that development is not a charity, privilege or generosity also means clearly acknowledging that all States are duty-bearers with respect to Right to Development This duty extends not only internally towards their own citizens, but also beyond the States’ borders and permeates through international decision-making at international organizations,

4. insisting on a comprehensive, multidimensional and holistic approach to development as a human right. On the one hand, this means that all SDGs must be achieved in a manner which is aligned with human rights and promotes their fulfillment. On the other hand, operationalizing the Rightto Development requires us to ensure that no goal is achieved at the cost of some other human right, whether substantive or procedural

5. going beyond a Human Rights based approach to Development....and making development itself a self-standing human right. States have duties to ensure development

6. ensuring that the indicators for the SDGs and the targets are compatible with the objective of making the right to development a reality for everyone

Nothing we didn't know about really, and very beautifully articulated.  I like the idea of a Human Rights avatar of the SDGs.   But  what does this mean  in reality?  WHAT is this "development" that we are saying is our right?  Is it the neo-liberal pathway to economic growth that will eventually trickle down to ordinary human  beings?  Is it a Bhutan style pathway to 'happiness'?  Where does living within our planetary limitations come in? Does the duty of States beyond their borders extend to climate change? and critically, in a world where some transnational corporations are economically and politically more powerful than some states, what does the Right to Development say about the private sector?