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[afro-nets] Food for all the bearers' thoughts

  • From: "Claudio Schuftan" <claudio@hcmc.netnam.vn>
  • Date: Sat, 23 Sep 2006 09:36:30 +0700

Food for all the bearers' thoughts

Human Rights Reader 142


1. Human rights (HR) are based on the assumption that there are things that ought not to be done to any human being or things that ought to be done for every human being. (M. J. Perry) No example more evident than that of health.

2. To say something is a human right is to say that social institutions that fail to protect it are defective (and in violation). (C. Beitz)

3. In essence, human rights (people's rights) are based on a relationship between individuals (or a group) that have a valid claim and other individuals (or a group) that have correlative duties or obligations towards the former.

4. Human rights are not realized until there is a mechanism for the subject of the right (the claim holder) to enforce it and to keep the right realized. This is the fundamental difference between a. right and a privilege-given-by-benevolence. This also points to our role as human rights (HR) workers, namely one to create the conditions for such a mechanism to become functional.

5. Interestingly, in that mechanism, the realization of civil and political rights most often requires actions to reduce state interventions, while economic, social and cultural rights often require deliberate state interventions.

6. In the HR discourse, claim holders (CHs) and duty bearers (DBs) are to be understood as roles into which individuals (or groups) may enter. That means that the same individual may be both a CH and a DB at the same time.

7. When carrying out capacity analyses of DBs, indicators used to assess their performance need to separately measure a) their performance in meeting their responsibilities, and b) their capacity to do so. Failure to meet their duties due to either cause denotes a sub-optimal capacity of DBs.

8. Since capacity analysis is supposed to bring out the multiple responsibilities of a range of DBs, things can become complicated. Therefore, to simplify things procedurally, in practice, capacity analysis can be applied to selected topics and actors once one has an agreed clear strategic focus centered on what the claim holders want to achieve first.

9. But, beware, in these capacity analyses, DBs should not feel they are being judged, but rather given the opportunity to speak out about their challenges, constraints and their own unfulfilled rights, as well as being given the opportunity to take up their (previously neglected) duties.

Claudio Schuftan, Ho Chi Minh City

Mostly adapted from SCN News (UN Standing Committee on Nutrition), No.30, mid 2005; P. van Weerelt and. T. Palmlund, HR Practice Note, UNDP draft 26/4/2004; and U. Jonsson, Changing Approaches to the Problem of Child Malnutrition, 2006, Forthcoming.