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writing for godot

FROM THE HUMAN RIGHT TO KNOW AND THE FURTHER DUTY TO INQUIRE FLOWS THE OBLIGATION TO ACT. (Sandra Steingraber)

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Written by schuftan@gmai.com   
Thursday, 04 July 2019 15:20

 

 

-The check has come back from the bank of justice marked ‘insufficient funds’. (Martin Luther King)

 

Having resources is a necessary component of the capacity to fulfill human rights

1. Not infrequently, a lack-of-knowledge-leading-to-inaction is due to a lack of capacity of duty bearers rather than due to negligence or ill-will. Therefore, it behooves us human rights (HR) activists to work with claim holders to identify capacity gaps of all relevant duty bearers. When duty bearers are intentionally violating HR --rather than due to negligence-- a different type of interventions is needed as a lack of capacity then is not the problem. (Urban Jonsson)

 

2. This leads us to the concept of accountability as closely linked to capacity: HR rely on accountability; we know this. To be accountable, three conditions must be met: a) the duty bearer(s) must accept a responsibility (should act); b) they must have authority (may act); and c) they must control resources (can act).* (U. Jonsson)

*: But not being facetious, discussions of duty bearers about HR usually go through three stages: confusion, anxiety (what do they now want from me?) and call-to-live-up-to-expectations. Their real ultimate challenge to measure them against is their promises (and deeds) living up to these expectations. Claim holders have to push in this direction if they aspire to lead to deeds in practice!

 

Are UN agencies (and the world) in synch with this?

 

3. Over 92% of the SDG targets are linked to HR (although not always explicitly). This underscores the importance of analyzing data and recommendations of HR monitoring bodies and mechanisms if we want to have HR obligations as part of the SDG commitments solemnly agreed-upon. Only operationalizing the links between the SDGs and HR, and using HR recommendations in national SDG strategies, will truly direct the needed accountability in the right direction.** (Danish Institute of HR) But, sadly, this is not the path that is being followed.

**: Think 2030 and beyond: Although children <5 make only 25% of the world’s population, they make 100% of the world’s future…. Furthermore, our older youth is schooled, but not educated --dramatically so as relates to HR (i.e., knowledge of the HR framework and its workings). This is important, because the HR framework allows all of us, from youth to adulthood, to discern between deep and shallow explanations of injustices and between vital and inessential facts that lead to distortions and myths that govern our lives.

 

4. Giving the UN a more effective handle on domestic policies is fraught with problems and shortcomings. We know this. The implementation of domestic reforms (particularly in the HR domain), in order to be legitimate, must be people-driven processes through claim holders’ empowerment worldwide. Yes, in compliance with “We, the people…” of the UN Charter… But the UN has achieved pitifully little in proactively mobilizing people domestically. (Idriss Jazairy and Roberto Savio) This is beyond sad; beyond disappointing; actually infuriating… [UN agencies should be revisioning and remissioning themselves along the lines of ‘We are what we do, but primarily what we do to change what we are’. (I cannot but think about the ominous inroads of the private sector is making in UN agencies financing…].

How can we launch global human rights struggles from the micro? (Marcelo Colusi)

 

5. Tough question. But there is no other alternative. Struggles always start at the local space, in the community, in the labor union, in the women’s organization. But any such struggle has to have a final goal of a wider perspective understanding that the local realm articulates with the global. Nowadays we have to try to sum multiple discontents so as to accumulate the forces of the so many struck, exploited and excluded from the system.

 

6. This is a patient and consisten ants job to be carried out at the micro level. Is an avant-garde needed for this? …Here we have the old non-resolved problem of the Left that actually does not have a single response to this question. It most probably is not parties of the Left (that have hardly effectively enough critiqued the prevailing unfair system) that are going to be the avant-garde in this endeavor. It will rather be the coalesced forces of the-unhappy-ready-to-rebel who must and will lead by actively mobilizing to claim their rights; clarity will come from them.

 

7. It is also clear though that just spontaneity has its limits. This does not mean that intellectuals have to manage these mobilization processes, but rather, together with these disgruntled groups, come up with a roadmap for claim holders to claim. This is the challenge, namely for the organized majorities to eventually play the protagonists’ role in transforming the current state of exploitation, injustice and violation of HR. We have to aim at avant-gardes with collective leadership, always in dialogue with claim holders.

 

8. So, what are the forms of struggle that we should be applying? The response: Any of those that can be mustered! Actually, here, what we intend, is not to propose concrete solutions, but to make sure we ask the right questions. Let me close with a quote from the poet Antonio Machado totally fitting for what is here discussed: “Caminante, no hay camino. Se hace camino al andar”. (M. Colusi)

 

Claudio Schuftan, Ho Chi Minh City

Your comments are welcome at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

www.claudioschuftan.com

 

Postscript/Marginalia

-The concept of liberty, in philosophy, points to reason; in the arts, it points to inspiration; in politics, it points to (human) rights. (Victor Hugo)

-If a single citizen is assaulted, we say people have a feeling of insecurity; if it is the State the one that assaults the rights of citizens, it is not just a feeling of insecurity, but real insecurity. (Albino Gomez)

-Referring to the right to a birth certificate, even a stray dog, as Hannah Arendt once noted, has better odds of surviving when given a name.

-I often tell the story of how, when approaching bricklayers, you can get three answers to the question “What are you doing?” One says “I am laying bricks”; another says “I am building a school”; the third says “I am building a better world”. (Dato Anwar Fazal)

- And to close, something difficult to translate: “Yo defiendo los derechos humanos pero hay humanos que no son derechos…” (A. Gomez)

 

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