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AFRO-NETS> Food for a fashionable thought
- Subject: AFRO-NETS> Food for a fashionable thought
- From: Claudio Schuftan <firstname.lastname@example.org>
- Date: Tue, 24 Apr 2001 12:45:49 -0400 (EDT)
Food for a fashionable thought
Beware: The fashion is out. Everybody wants to jump into the band-
wagon of Human Rights.
It is coming to our attention that to be 'up to the times' a number
of donors and NGOs are telling us that their programs have incorpo-
rated participatory approaches to their development, health and nu-
trition programs. They see those being an "essential" part of Human
Rights, because they build activities around the express needs of the
But this is NOT what the Human Rights approach is about!
Such programs must be retooled to adopt the full Human Rights para-
digm to deserve being called such, i.e., the goal of them should be
achieved through interventions founded in international Human Rights
law. It is the latter that provides the legal basis for the interven-
tions that will ultimately underscore the host governments' failure
to fulfill its obligations to redress the violation of the Human
Rights of its citizens.
To bring about a reversion of such violations requires changing/
adapting ongoing programs' objectives to conform with the Human
Rights framework. The difference is one between just delivering the
usual services, and making it clear to beneficiaries that they are
legally entitled to specific services and can go somewhere to com-
plain if they do not receive what is due them; people need to know
what commitments have been made to them.
The new objectives are not to stabilize the problem, but to make it
disappear. Accountability now will not only be on services being pro-
vided, but on tackling (and ending) the problem at its roots.
You need to see the difference in this.
Typical public health, nutrition or development programs, for in-
stance, do not include Human Rights education and do not address the
fundamental problems (and process) that marginalize(s) disadvantaged
groups in society. They do little to address the basic causes and
inequalities that lead to the perpetuation of poverty, ill-health and
malnutrition. And these are the challenges that the Human Rights ap-
proach does address, i.e., - it attempts to redress the imbalance be-
tween society's privileged and its disempowered members; - it clearly
identifies individuals and agencies of the state that are called upon
to carry out these obligations; and - it also says how the latter are
to operate to remove the specific Human Rights violations.
Another subterfuge used that comes to our attention is for donors to
say that they are carrying out some of their activities through NGOs
that do advocate for Human Rights. Well, the same objections apply
here. This is not enough, even if the latter NGOs are genuinely in-
The fallacy that needs to be uprooted is that development and, for
example, public health programs such as child survival and nutrition
programs, 'implicitly' address fundamental issues of Human Rights. In
the Human Rights approach, nothing is left implicit. Without retool-
ing to an explicit Human Rights focus such claims remain but hot air.
Johnson, F.C., USAID child survival programs: Adopting a Human Rights
approach, The Intl. J. of Children's Rights, 5: 383-395, 1997.
Kent, G., Realizing international children's rights through implemen-
tation of national law, op. cit, 439-456, 1997.
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