HUMAN RIGHTS EMBRACE THE NON-ECONOMIC DIMENSIONS OF DEVELOPMENT. THEY PROMOTE AND CONSOLIDATE SOCIAL SOLIDARITY. THEY ARE NOT A DISPLAY WINDOW; THEY ENTAIL A DISTINCT PROGRAM, A FULL-BLOWN MOVEMENT.

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Human Rights Reader 247

HUMAN RIGHTS EMBRACE THE NON-ECONOMIC DIMENSIONS OF DEVELOPMENT*. THEY PROMOTE AND CONSOLIDATE SOCIAL SOLIDARITY. THEY ARE NOT A DISPLAY WINDOW; THEY ENTAIL A DISTINCT PROGRAM, A FULL-BLOWN MOVEMENT. (P. Drucker)

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*: The truth is that there are no purely or primarily economic solutions to human rights problems.

-Human rights is an unapologetic project for social emancipation in which suffering is related to powerlessness and freedom to living in dignity. (A. Yamin)

-A dose of religious altruism, of non-religious generosity and just a vague adherence to human rights will simply not be able to overturn the current mal-development paradigm.

-It is the shifting from needs to socially and legally guaranteed entitlements, and from charity to duty and to dignity that underpins human rights work. (A. Donald, S. Koenig)

1. For each of us human rights activists, the challenge is: How can the rules of the new human rights (HR) movement replace our routine? Innovations are fiercely resisted by some of our peers, precisely because they redefine the rules they are comfortable operating under.

2. At present, these peers rather try to bring attention to ‘their’ story and present sufficient arguments to defend ‘their’ role in the fight against poverty –and eventually against injustice. What we want them to understand is that the HR-based framework de-facto unites them/unites us! (P. Develtere)

3. In the hands of only a few of us activists, the HR-based approach (HRBA) is limited and not endlessly elastic –and its implementation will only reach so far. This is why this Reader is a perennial recruiter of new strategic allies.

4. In our hands, HR interventions pursue equity, equality and ultimately social justice.  But most governments are not at all (or sufficiently) motivated (yet) to pursue the same by reasons that are linked to their simplistic or misguided (or absent) HR thinking. Therefore, only a handful of these governments have set up accountability mechanisms to protect HR.

5. We are thus left with the fact that it is the actual functioning of contemporary societies that does not facilitate the job of those of us who are seeking to tackle and defuse HR violations.*

*: I am often left to wonder: Do states ratify HR treaties gambling on the fact that they will experience little pressure to comply with them?

6. Despite this difficulty, and because the strategies of the oppressors are becoming more evident by the day, we have to move forward swiftly and be inflexible about the fundamental tenets of HR.

7. Fortunately, HR is no longer the missing word from many a UN meeting or negotiation; after initial neglect, HR have made their way onto the respective agendas. Yes, more and more, HR are being invoked to justify a variety of fundamental claims; yes, they are playing an increasingly important role in shaping public policies. But does that mean that HR (with their specific claims of individuals on governments) are  moving to center stage right along power politics? (P. Farmer)  Not really, I would say, even if HR are embodied in legal instruments which are formally binding on States.

The stark reality is that people with the least power to contest the denial of their rights are constrained in their ability to enjoy those rights, precisely because they do not participate in shaping public policy.

8. Although not yet center stage, the HR-based framework, for instance as applied to health, makes explicit reference to HR from the outset of its assessment of the health situation; it does not only name the relevance of human rights in retrospect; it does not use HR standards and principles as a way of naming violations after they have occurred, but as a way of preventing violations from occurring in the first place.

9. As we have said many times, the HR-based framework is based on international HR standards (i.e., desirable outcomes); it recognizes claim holders and duty bearers; it focuses on discriminated and marginalized groups; it aims at the progressive achievement of all HR; it gives equal importance to the outcomes and to the processes of development; and it upholds HR principles (i.e., criteria for the HR processes to be set in motion, namely, indivisibility, inter-relatedness, non-discrimination, participation, accountability, transparency, human dignity, rule of law, equality). **

**:  Do keep in mind though: Human rights do allow diversity, but not inequality.

10. Ultimately, when using the HR-based approach (HRBA), we both observe and judge; we both present and contest evidence; we both apply morality and legality! (D. Tarantola, U. Jonsson)

11. Some say that we are sowing-in-the-ocean as we try to introduce the HRBA. But it is by considering the political economy as a whole, that the HRBA shapes more meaningful, indeed not utopian, interventions. *** (J. Bourdon)

***: As a matter of fact, the HRBA is stern with those who get stuck in old dogmas.

12. As HR activists, we thus have to act differently depending whether our recommendations are being either ignored, contested or eventually mainstreamed. (Health Insights, IDS, Issue 78, Oct 2009)

13. Bottom line, despite all the difficulties, we can neither loose hope nor the desire to find a rational solution to the HR problems at hand. New ideas, cultural restlessness and new world visions are often born simultaneously in various places…and this is reassuring. In HR work, what we need is to build and to share a true intellectual and ideological armour –transcending borders.

Claudio Schuftan, Ho Chi Minh City

cschuftan@phmovement.org

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Partially adapted from Development in Practice; D+C, 36:2, Oct.2009; and A. Gomez, Tiempo de Descuento, Editorial El Fin de la Noche, Buenos Aires, 2009.

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