Development before Democracy: Inter-American Relations in the long 1950s

Stella Krepp, University of Bern:

Even though Latin American diplomats had been central actors in the debate surrounding human rights in the nascent years of the United Nations, the predominant preoccupation in the 1950s centred on development. Latin American politicians generally framed development as “social progress,” arguing that political and civil rights were meaningless unless basic needs were met. Nonetheless, this decidedly materialist approach to human rights is complicated when considering how, within months of each other in 1959, both the Inter-American Development Bank and the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights were founded. Looking at debates in the Organization of American States (OAS), this paper relates the fundamentally uneasy relationship between human rights and development in the inter-American system in the 1950s and early 60s.

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