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AFRO-NETS> Food for some not so disparate thoughts

Food for some not so disparate thoughts


More on accountability analysis:

Capacity/accountability analyses (that tell us why duty bearers at 
many levels do not seem to be able to perform their duties as ex-
pected) are a cornerstone of Human Rights planning (see HR readers 9-
20 on HR planning).

The key question is: Who gets to do these needed analyses and who the 
calling to account? It sometimes sounds too much as if it is some 
outside authority who is going to do these things for us and, 'with a 
lightning bolt call the sinners to account'. This attitude/suggestion 
that some outside agency will/must do this has to be combated. The 
task cannot simply be disembodied and left up to outsiders.

Primary (but not exclusive) attention needs to be given to local 
grassroots groups to lead these accountability analyses. The bottom 
line: it is unthinkable to talk about capacity/accountability analy-
ses in any other way than in a participative way.

But we should not concentrate too narrowly on grassroots either; 
agents at all levels have roles to play; we need to figure out their 
(and our own) respective responsibilities and inter-relationships in 
this task. Also very prominently, then, national governments need to 
be actively lobbied to concretize their commitments to pass framework 
national Human Rights laws. (G.K.)

On the other hand, ambitious capacity/accountability analyses risk 
leading us to too many priorities. We have to reduce the analyses to 
a limited set of claim-duty relationships that are likely to be most 
critical in a given situation. If not limited, we risk ending up with 
a very large number of claim-duty relationships and actors who we 
will not be able to productively involve in new actions for which we 
will now hold them accountable. Therefore, the recommendation is to -
-with people's participation-- arrive at a list of the most crucial 
two or three 'sins of omissions' for each particular set of selected 
rights violations. Later, in the AAA (assessment/analysis/action) cy-
cle, people can reevaluate and pick their new priorities. (U.J.)

On goals and means:

We always need to keep in mind that Human Rights do not proscribe --
they prescribe-- and on broad goals at that. Further, Human Rights do 
not specify means for reaching those broad goals.

There thus is a separation in Human Rights work between goal setting 
and figuring out how to reach them. The first part we do; the second, 
we seldom specify; it is thus 'history in the making' and varies 
widely depending on the actors' motivations.

For the time being --and hopefully not for too long-- it is we (you 
and I and growing numbers of others) who are called upon to take up 
the challenge of furthering the operational aspects of Human Rights 
(the how to) so as to articulate them into concrete actions. (G.K.)

As we do so, we have to be absolutely clear that there is no neutral 
territory in combating oppression and eradicating poverty. Those who 
believe in neutrality will ultimately become prey to the agendas of 
the conservative social forces. As long as the movement for Human 
Rights does not seek to dismantle the structures of power that breed 
and sustain inequity with its accompanying Human Rights violations, 
these structures will remain untouched and changes will just be clev-
erly manipulated to make them look like progress. (F.M.)

Moreover, work on Human Rights, as well as work on reshuffling power 
relations to tackle the problems of poverty, will have to pass 
through gaining the support of the middle class. For example, ser-
vices must be made equally accessible to all on a basis that is per-
ceived as fair by all; this means that Human Rights principles have 
to be equally applied to all citizens --not only to the poor.

The current emphasis on privatizing the provision of services and on 
targeting only the victims of the most severe violations (alas to of-
fer them only token palliative measures) goes in exactly the opposite 
direction of what is meant here. Such current policies are unmistaka-
bly making the solidarity work needed for the attainment of Human 
Rights next to impossible. (UNRISD)

Therefore, rights should not be theorized in the sense of claims 
playing themselves out in a vacuum. Achieving them will mean a strug-
gle. As we have said before, rights are not a standard granted from 
above, but a standard bearer around which people have to rally to 
bring about a struggle from below. (I.S.) Know where you stand and 
know on whose side you wish to be counted as an actor.

More on the right to information:

Although there are several references in Human Rights instruments to 
the right to education/information and the right to share in scien-
tific advancement, such provisions are not supported by an effective 
enforcement mechanism. Conversely, the new WTO global regime for in-
tellectual property rights does have at its disposal such enforcement 
procedures, i.e. cross-retaliatory trade measures. 

This is a flagrant paradox, because 
- everyone has the right to knowledge (including the entitlements to 
  access to knowledge), 
- no one can be arbitrarily deprived of the sources of knowledge, 
- the right to knowledge implies due recognition and respect for the 
  rights and freedoms of others, and 
- all peoples and all nations have the right to share their knowledge 
  with one another.

It is thus vital that a proper balance be struck between the owner-
ship interests of knowledge producers and the public good interests 
of knowledge users. The international community has to come to the 
realization that the right to knowledge is far too important to be 
left to commercial forces only.

The much-heralded 'knowledge societies' of the information superhigh-
way will amount to little more than paper tigers if their governance 
is delegated to the marketplace: The market will simply produce and 
distribute knowledge according to people's purchasing capacities.

Conversely, a Human Rights-inspired system of governance will favor 
the availability of knowledge not according to people's means, but 
according to people's needs and aspirations. (C.J.H.)

More on Human Rights and international financial institutions (IFIs):

In an apparent recent rediscovery of 'the social', the Bretton Woods 
IFIs are now also turning to Human Rights. But this 'revalidation' of 
'the social' and of Human Rights is happening mainly at the micro 
level in these institutions. At the macro level, IFIs' attention to 
social questions is, in all honesty, still very much an afterthought!

In reality, (purportedly) 'sound' macroeconomic policies continue to-
day to be designed mainly based on cold economic considerations. 
Then, (luke-warm) social 'band-aids' are applied in order to achieve 
acceptable outcomes --outcomes IFIs feel they cannot be blamed for by 
the rest of the international community.

IFI prescriptions for the privatization of basic social services 
(i.e. the privatization of social protection) is antithetical to Hu-
man Rights, antithetical to the basic tenets of wealth redistribu-
tion, antithetical to poverty eradication strategies, and, therefore, 
antithetical to equity. (UNRISD)

Claudio Schuftan
Hanoi, Vietnam

- Kent. G., Personal e-mail dated 26/2/2001.
- Jonsson, U., An approach to Human Rights-based programming in
  UNICEF ESAR, SCN News, No.20, July 2000, pp.6-9.
- Manji, F., Editorial, in Development and Rights, A Development in 
  Practice Reader, Oxfam Publications, 1999.
- Shivji, I., The concept of Human Rights in Africa, CODESRIA, 1989,
- Hamelink, C.J., Who has the right to know?, UNRISD News, No.23,
  Autumn/Winter 2000, p.20.
- UNRISD, Social policy in a development context, UNRISD News, No.23,
  Autumn/Winter 2000, pp.10+11.

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