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writing for godot

The principles of human rights can indeed be made the basis for commonsense solutions to humanity's problems (Branko Marcetic)

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Saturday, 14 November 2020 15:58

Human rights: Food for a difficult to enforce thought  ‘Today’s HR applicability’


Human Rights Reader 553


[TLDR (too long didn’t read): This Reader is about what is today needed for claim holders to counter the overt and covert power of elites and the implications this has for a human rights-based approach. For a quick overview, just read the bolded text].


-Human rights principles (participation, accountability, non-discrimination, transparency, human dignity, empowerment and rule of law) are applicable everywhere!

-In our minds, there should be no foreign lands; there is only to be one struggle throughout the world; there is only the flame of freedom and human rights (HR) trying to light the hideous darkness of life on earth. (Emma Goldman)


Human rights were born as limits imposed on the power of rulers and powerful elites (Flavio Valente)


1. As they evolved, the powers of majorities were codified vis-à-vis the powers of minorities in the population. Human rights are thus the result of a historic accumulation of social pacts that define the limits and the obligations of members of society as a whole in each historical period.


2. After ratification, states are expected to set up national systems of HR that guarantee their independent functioning, as well as the independent functioning of the executive, the legislative and the judicial powers. This also calls for setting up functioning periodic, national and international accountability mechanisms.* These national HR systems must be set up by the state and must carry out independent public assessment, monitoring and reporting functions both of HR violations and of the lack of commensurate action(s) by the state, especially the executive branch. This responsibility increases the need to set up regional and global HR instances where claim holders can post their complaints when there are no responses to their demands at the national level.

*: Accountability is not a one-time action. States need to continually demonstrate accountability for their actions. The progressive realization of HR is thus an essential target of accountability. The benchmarks the progressive realization of HR sets for itself are, in reality, the targeted step-by-step outcomes planned-for for its eventual realization. These benchmarks call for real time report cards by public interest civil society organizations.


3. Without such systems, HR will not be more than a bunch of ‘dead words’ that can be wiped out by any kind of measures when the correlation of forces is against claim holders. This certainly brings about regressions in the form of lost enjoyment of a host of HR --like the ones we are living through just now the world over. What this means is that claim holders cannot only depend on established (non-responsive) public institutions to guarantee their HR --especially those claim holders negatively affected by regressive neoliberal measures.


4. The effective incorporation of HR principles** into the social fabric of a society and their ultimate institutionalization is indeed a slow process that calls for perseverance and ‘historical patience’ by the defenders of HR. This incorporation calls for much more than the benevolence and good intentions of a given government; it demands deep, long-term structural changes.*** Given the current global political climate, the challenge of making headway in these changes will be bigger when, as expected, the defense of HR becomes a key instrument in the defense of democracy.

**: This also applies to incorporating HR attributes, namely, universality-and-inalienability, indivisibility, interdependence-and-interrelatedness, equality-and-consultation and inclusion with a binding character. Add to these non-renounceability, intemporality and inviolability.

***: In the process of fulfilling HR, the balance of power has got to shift, because outcomes sought are geared towards addressing the structural inequalities including gender-based injustices. (M. Pimbert)


5. The sad truth is that most claim holders are not informed about their rights, do not know how to stake a claim and/or are skeptical that anything will change if they do demand. Maybe, to a certain point, they are right. But experience shows that s/he who does not take a risk cannot expect change. I reiterate the fact that, when mobilized, claim holders do achieve important victories that can and do help yet other claim holders elsewhere fulfill their rights more easily. Results in these efforts, especially for the most affected by HR violations, will only come if and when the number of concrete demands by claim holders multiply to the point where the correlation of forces is equalized or reversed in an effort to strengthen the democratic process. Our struggle today is to avoid that the retrogression continues. It is aggressive HR learning that will generate more such concrete demands! (F. Valente)


If human rights are not made enforceable by claim holders, there simply is no properly functioning human rights system to talk about (George Kent)


-By actively engaging, claim holders become the moral leaders we need at this point of history. Their voices shape the growing consensus and energize movements, as well as influencing policy making. ‘We the peoples’ needs to make their voices heard now more than ever. In short, ‘we the peoples’ must become the moral lead to drive our collective future. (Paolo Lembo)


6. In many settings, the local and national courts are viewed as the primary means of calling the government to account if it fails to meet its obligations. However, in practical terms, lawyers and the courts are beyond the reach of most claim holders.


7. When it comes to the implementation of HR principles, the most important accountability mechanisms are those directly available to claim holders. They pertain to claim holders’ right to lead the kind of life they have reason to value. (Amartya Sen) These mechanisms are the local means by which they can take action to ensure that duty bearers do what they are supposed to do to fulfill their obligations. It is through such arrangements that the HR system is set up to empower claim holders particularly in social services programs. These can be strengthened if they are structured as rights-based programs in which claim holders have clearly defined entitlements, duty bearers clearly defined obligations and the former are given access to effective accountability systems to ensure that they (claim holders) get what they are supposed to get.


8. Moreover, digital technologies can be used to set up user-friendly means through which claim holders can pursue remedies if their rights are violated. The system can be adapted to give people more power in relation to their government. Ensuring that rights are properly fulfilled is a high priority for all governments so they must be liable to be called to account when rights are violated. Digital technologies can be used to empower claim holders if governments have the will to do so. (G. Kent)


9. Does international human rights law work to enforce HR claims? Yes!**** But not for those who need it the most. (Michael Fikhr, Special UN Rapporteur) [Not being facetious, Diego Portales, the 19th century Chilean politician, once said: “The Constitution was written to be ignored”].

****: There is nothing inherently wrong with being optimistic about this. Despair is, after all, often the cousin of inaction and surrender. But the style of optimism pushed by some thinkers is malevolously designed to lead and assure people that they need not struggle or even worry, because things are on the right track already. The world is not getting better though! But it could… (B. Marcetic)


Bottom line

10. Therefore, what is today needed are enforceable strategies to generate HR awareness so as to mobilize the energies to carry out meaningful actions to apply solutions long known to the global society. That energy cannot and will not come from political leaders at the national level preoccupied with gaining or preserving their own positions. It requires the wisdom and courage of a leadership-in-thought that has decided that what is needed is action. The energy can only come from forging and unleashing a global social movement of like-minded organizations and individuals dedicated to the fulfillment of HR. (Garry Jacobs)


Claudio Schuftan, Ho Chi Minh City

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Related existential questions and aphorisms (Luis Weinstein)

  • How can you educate yourself not to use HR as just an empty formulation, i.e., as a mere ritual?
  • How can you reduce the distance between what you think politics ought to be and what you do in your everyday life?
  • What understanding do you have about what ‘an all-encompassing view of politics’ is? What was the process that took you to such an understanding?
  • Do you ever think about how difficult it is to be free while there are so many human beings who are not?
  • Briefly think about the history of your prejudices (we all have had them!). How have they evolved in your life? How can you explain and overcome them?
  • Which are your more conservative views? How can you explain them? What do you think about their origin?
  • What allows you to accept personal criticism and insults not ruminating about your self-esteem being hurt?
  • What is for you a utopia? Do you believe in one now? If not, did you ever believe in one?
  • What situations simply overcome you, making you lose your center and hurting you?
  • People you fully trust will return that trust to you. (taken from Abraham Lincoln)
  • A specter is finally haunting the world: The specter of humanization.
  • The search for justice is a key stage in the long road towards homo sapiens.
  • Technology overshadows the commitment we have with living a good life.
  • Our hopes must get along with the commitments we make.
  • A small victory can become a great power.
  • To be focused on something alone is not the same as to focus on it together in community.
  • Disappointments are meant to give us the opportunity to grow.
  • Based on conventional history, there are those who live according to past facts they never even were aware about.
  • Exaggerating what we feel tends to derail us in our search of a sense of life. Our ego and our search for a sense of life do not get along well.
  • When we are bogged down by our weaknesses, we have to look at our strengths.
  • Commitment is a great value not only in Western culture, but also in our search and struggle for a new paradigm. (L. Weinstein) your social media marketing partner
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