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Respect for human rights is essential to economic development

Public debate in association with The Economist
Speakers: Phil Bloomer, His Excellency Mr Isaac Osei, Alex Singleton, Professor Shujie Yao
Chair: Edward Lucas, The Economist
October 2005


It was once commonly assumed that economic development and human rights were mutually exclusive, that material success and equality of respect for everybody simply could not work together. Now, times are changing, and the new orthodoxy is fast becoming the exact opposite, that you can succeed materially only when you respect the human rights of your people. But is this always the case? Different cultures have different perspectives on 'human rights', which is itself a term of contention. Can developing societies afford to commit themselves to the ethical demands of the West? If the developed nations were able to disregard human rights on the way to prosperity, why shouldn't other countries be able to do the same today?

Edward Lucas is Central and Eastern Europe correspondent for The Economist. He has spent 16 years dealing with the region as a journalist and publisher, working for news organisations including the BBC, The Independent and The Economist, and at an English-language weekly in the Baltic states in which he was the major shareholder. After covering the collapse of communism and the Soviet Union, he became editorial director of the Economist Intelligence Unit's eastern and central Europe office in Vienna in 1994; in 1996 he moved to Berlin as The Economist's correspondent covering business and finance in Germany and eastern Europe. From 1998 to 2002 he was Moscow Bureau Chief, covering the former Soviet Union. He then returned to London, spending three years as Britain correspondent, before taking up his current post in mid-2005.

Phil Bloomer is the new Director of Oxfam's Campaigns and Policy Division, which leads our global campaigning and our programme policy work. Phil has just finished as the Head of Oxfam International's campaign to Make Trade Fair. The global campaign is focused on achieving trade rules that work for the poor as well as the rich. In the last four years he has led Oxfam's campaigning work on agriculture, coffee, patents and medicines. Phil was also the Head of Advocacy at Oxfam running teams responsible for research policy development and lobby. Phil previously worked for 11 years in Latin America on international economic justice issues and human rights.

His Excellency Mr Isaac Osei, Ghana's High Commissioner to the UK since September 2001, has a background in consultancy and business. He was the founder and Managing Consultant of Ghanexim Economic Consultants Limited, a firm involved in the planning of infrastructural projects, socio-economic impact analyses as well as the provision of business services. Mr Osei has experience working as a consultant to the Government of Ghana, USAID, World Bank, JICA, DfID and UNCTAD over several years. Prior to his present appointment, Mr Osei was the Managing Director of Intravenous Infusion Limited, the largest manufacturer of infusions and small volume injectables in West Africa. He studied Economics at the University of Ghana, the Economics Institute at the University of Colorado at Boulder, and the Centre for Development Economics, Williams College, Massachusetts. In London, Mr Osei served as the first Chairperson of the Board of Governors of the Commonwealth Secretariat in 2003/2004.

Alex Singleton is President of The Globalization Institute, a trade and international development think tank in London. He makes regular appearances on British television and radio, including on the BBC, ITV1, Channel Four News and Sky News. He has been published in national newspapers and magazines. In the media, he is Britain's most prolific critic of 'fair trade' schemes. He often gives talks and debates at universities and high schools. He was formerly Research Director of the Adam Smith Institute, Director of Technology Policy at the International Policy Network, a Charles G. Koch Fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute and a Visiting Scholar at Americans for Tax Reform. He was educated at Dulwich College and the University of St Andrews.

Professor Shujie Yao is Chair of Economics at Middlesex University. Prior to this he held positions at the University of Portsmouth, the University of Oxford and the South China University of Agriculture. After a year as President of the Chinese Economic Association (UK), he became executive director in 1998. Shujie has acted as consultant economist to several key international organisations, including: the European Union; the Department for International Development (UK); the Asian Development Bank; the United Nations Capital Fund; the World Bank; and the UN Food and Agricultural Organization - working across, Africa and Asia. Shujie has published an impressive list of books, most recently, Globalisation, Competition and Growth in China (RoutledgeCurzon). He has contributed articles to numerous academic journals and is editor of the Journal of Chinese Economic and Business Studies.