LONDON, July 15 (RIA Novosti) – The UK High Court’s Monday ruling allowing to review the UK aid agency’s compliance with its own human rights policies in Ethiopia signals the need for the British government and other donors to uphold their commitments, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a press release.
In its July 14 ruling, the High Court said that allegations that the UK Department for International Development (DFID) has failed to adequately assess evidence of human rights violations in the African country deserve a full judicial review.
“The UK High Court ruling is just a first step, but it should be a wake-up call for the government and other donors that they need rigorous monitoring to make sure their development programs are upholding their commitments to human rights,” Leslie Lefkow, HRW deputy Africa director, said.
The primary human rights violations took place within the “villagization” program, a compulsory resettlement of people into designated villages, which was carried out in Gambella in 2011 and other regions of Ethiopia in recent years.
According to a Human Rights Watch January 2012 report, forced displacement, arbitrary detentions, inadequate consultations and more were typical in the villagization program where villagers were often resettled to infertile lands without any infrastructure, including schools, clinics, water pumps, and were not compensated for their losses.
To solve the problem connected with access to education, health care and other services the UK government, the World Bank and other donors established the Promotion of Basic Services (PBS) program. According to PBS, block grants are allocated to local governments, which ultimately implement villagization policies and plan infrastructure development.
HRW said that local officials in Gambella often resort to intimidating villagers by warning them not to voice complaints over villagization, especially when PBS representatives and other donors make visits in Gambella to conduct assessments.
“The UK is providing more than £300 million a year in aid to Ethiopia while the country’s human rights record is steadily deteriorating. If DFID is serious about supporting rights-respecting development, it needs to overhaul its monitoring processes and use its influence and the UK’s to press for an end to serious rights abuses in the villagization program – and elsewhere,” concluded Lefkow.