Last Updated: Tuesday, 22 April 2014, 11:13 GMT

Namibia must bridge yawning gaps in inequality, says UN independent human rights expert

Publisher UN News Service
Publication Date 8 October 2012
Cite as UN News Service, Namibia must bridge yawning gaps in inequality, says UN independent human rights expert, 8 October 2012, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/50851a542.html [accessed 23 April 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

With the release of a landmark report on breaches of international law committed in the ten years before the 2006 peace deal between the Nepali Government and the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), the United Nations human rights chief today highlighted her concern over the failure to create promised transitional justice mechanisms to address past human rights violations.

In the introduction to the 'Nepal Conflict Report,' released today, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, notes that, in signing the 2006 Comprehensive Peace Agreement, the two sides had committed to "establishing the truth about the conduct of the conflict and ensuring that the victims... receive both justice and reparations."

Six years later, the steps to deliver justice in the peace accords have still not been established, according to the High Commissioner, "and successive governments have withdrawn cases that were before the courts. Perpetrators of serious violations on both sides have not been held accountable, in some cases have been promoted, and may now even be offered an amnesty."

Accompanying the 233-page Report's release is a database of some 30,000 documents – known as the Transitional Justice Reference Archive – which aims to provide Nepali institutions and civil society with the means to kick-start the process of seeking truth, justice, and reconciliation for the crimes committed during the 1996-2006 conflict.

The Archive, according to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), records "up to 9,000 serious violations of international human rights law or international humanitarian law may have been committed during the decade-long conflict... However, at the time of writing, no one in Nepal has been prosecuted in a civilian court for a serious conflict-related crime."

In her introduction to the Report, Ms. Pillay states she is offering the report and archive "to the Government and people of Nepal, to assist them in their essential task of building a sustainable foundation for peace."

Despite its economic and political gains over the past two decades, Namibia still remains beset by "unacceptable" levels of poverty, a United Nations expert warned today, while urging the African country to adopt major structural changes to tackle its levels of inequality.

"While I recognize the damaging legacy of colonialism, progress has not been forthcoming at the necessary pace," said the Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty, Magdalena Sepúlveda, upon her return from a fact-finding mission to the country.

Ms. Sepúlveda pointed out that Namibia had enjoyed political stability and steady economic growth since its independence from South Africa in 1990, adding that the country was also rich in natural resources and boasted a gross domestic product classifying it among the world's middle-income countries.

Nevertheless, extreme poverty remained prevalent and the country's developmental policies and programmes had had "very limited success" in improving the situation of the poorest Namibians, she noted.

In addition, the Special Rapporteur listed an array of impediments which she said had prevented "good policies from producing the intended outcomes," despite substantial budgetary investments, including inefficiency, limited institutional capacity, skills shortages, a slow decentralization process and poor monitoring.

"The fact that the country remains one of the most unequal in the world is a clear sign that the benefits of economic growth have not reached the poor," Ms. Sepúlveda stated. "Social policies in areas ranging from health and education to employment and land reform are undermined by severe implementation gaps."

Ms. Sepúlveda, in particular, highlighted the plight of Namibian women, noting that they continued to be economically marginalised, received unequal access to land and productive resources, and were disproportionately affected by unemployment and HIV/AIDS.

She also expressed concern at the alarming rates of maternal mortality and gender-based violence, emphasizing that this long chain of predicaments "perpetuate women's social exclusion and poverty in a vicious cycle."

The UN expert urged the Namibian Government to implement systematic structural changes to address the levels of socio-economic inequality throughout the country, as well as develop more comprehensive social protection programmes and invest heavily in expanding access to public services.

"Poor Namibians cannot wait any longer for the benefits of economic growth to 'trickle down,'" continued Ms. Sepúlveda. "The Government must address the critical needs of the poorest and most marginalized as a matter of priority."

Independent experts, or special rapporteurs like Ms. Sepúlveda, are appointed by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council to examine and report back, in an unpaid capacity, on specific human rights themes.

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