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human rights

Human Rights: In Our Hands

Viva Dadwal's picture

 A student in Brazil. Video still. © Romel Simon/World Bank

It was in Paris, 65 years ago, on Dec. 10, 1948, that the president of the United Nations General Assembly, Herbert Vere Evatt, called for a vote on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Forty-eight nations voted in favor, eight abstained, but none dissented. Thus was adopted a simple, yet powerful declaration, which set out the basic principle of equality and non-discrimination:

“All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.”
— Article 1 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Discrimination based on sexual orientation occurs on a regular basis around the world. In its worst form, it includes forms of violent persecution such as killings, rape, and torture. A quick Google search can illustrate how the world stereotypes and discriminates against queer people. The International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association’s world survey of laws on criminalization, protection, and recognition of same-sex love reports that consensual same-sex relationships remain criminalized in some 78 countries. In at least five, the legally prescribed punishment for homosexual acts is death. Today’s fight for equality is as much about changing these discriminatory laws and practices as it is about reshaping the hearts and minds of people around the world.

Are Global Gender Norms Shifting?

Duncan Green's picture

I’ve been thinking a bit about norms recently – how do the unwritten rules that guide so much of our behaviour and understanding of what is acceptable/right/normal etc evolve over time? Because they undoubtedly do – look at attitudes to slavery, women’s votes, racial equality or more recently child rights.

So in advance of International Women’s Day, I ploughed my way through a really important new World Bank study, On Norms and Agency: Conversations about Gender Equality with Women and Men in 20 Countries. Like the Bank’s path-breaking Voices of the Poor or the more recent Time to Listen, it’s an attempt to take the global temperature on a big topic through a process of rigorous and deep listening involving 4000 women and men around the developing world.

Such studies are lengthy, complex and expensive, but are incredibly revealing and useful, especially as they start to accumulate. We’re trying a mini version with the Life in a time of Food Price Volatility listening project – first year results out soon.

The report is 150 pages and pretty heavy going – subtle, nuanced and complex, and very hard to extract easy headlines. A close reading will yield much more than a skim, but for the time-poor blog reader, here are some of the findings that jumped out at me.

What Does a 'Rights-Based Approach' Look Like in Practice? A New Oxfam Guide

Duncan Green's picture

Sometimes it seems like the devil has all the best tunes, while the angels struggle to get their message across. In development, some of the most interesting and important concepts are rendered impenetrable to non-specialists by a morass of jargon.

Take human rights for example. Yesterday was the International Human Rights Day, but I for one, find that the dry, legalistic and jargon-filled language of the ‘human rights community’ often seems depressingly, well, inhuman. One example is, alas, Oxfam’s new ‘Learning Companion to the Right to be Heard Framework’, published yesterday to coincide with this year’s International Human Rights Day’s focus on ‘voice’.

But please read it, because under all the jargon-laden sentences about ‘governance components as mechanisms to ensure transparency and accountability in delivery of quality essential services’ there is some real and useful substance. Trust me.

Millions Of Invisible Children Are Deprived Of Their Rights

Liviane Urquiza's picture

Available in Español, Français

YouThink! Enregistrement des naissances
A mother holding her baby. Nigeria. Photo: Arne Hoel / World Bank.

Have you ever met an invisible child? No? Are you sure…?

When a child’s birth is not recorded in the official local or national registry, it means that he officially does not exist. Millions of children throughout the world are victims of this situation and grow up without an identity.

Can ICTs Advance Human Rights?

Shamiela Mir's picture

Can Information and Communication Technology (ICT) effectively promote the implementation of Human Rights? This was the topic of a thought-provoking presentation organized by the World Bank Institute (WBI) together with the Nordic Trust Fund in OPCS, which explores how a Human Rights lens could help inform Bank projects. The presentation on July 17, 2012 was based on a draft report developed as part of ICT4HR project under ICT4Gov program at WBI. Through various case studies, the draft report looks at both the opportunities and the challenges of effectively using ICT to implement human rights.

How Can an NGO Campaign against Rape in Armed Conflict? An Inspiring Case Study from Colombia

Duncan Green's picture

I recently ran a fascinating workshop with colleagues at Intermón Oxfam (Oxfam’s Spanish affiliate) at which the different country programmes brought examples of change processes at work. One that particularly struck me was about our work in Colombia on sexual violence and conflict. Here’s the write up, jointly authored with Intermon’s Alejandro Matos.

The campaign began in 2009, jointly agreed by Intermón Oxfam and 9 national women’s and human rights organizations. The main aim was to make visible, at national and international level, the widespread use of sexual violence as a tactic by all sides in the armed conflict, and the gaps and failings in the responses of the Colombian state, in terms of prevention and punishment, the end of impunity and the care of women victims.

Does Sanitation as a Human Right = Free Toilets?

Craig Kullmann's picture

Earlier this month, the World Bank’s Water and Sanitation Program (WSP), Nordic Human Rights Trust Fund, and the World Bank’s Sanitation Thematic Group hosted Catarina de Albuquerque, the first UN Special Rapporteur on the human right to sanitation and safe drinking water. She discussed the human right to sanitation with sector and human rights experts, and what it means in practice. One of the most notable questions she addressed was--- if something is a human right, does that mean it has to be free? 


What's the Connection between Power, Development and Social Media?

Duncan Green's picture

I recently gave a talk about ICT and Development at the annual Re:Campaign conference in Berlin, organized by Oxfam Germany. Anyone who knows me will realize that this is a bit odd – despite being a blogaholic, I am actually Rubbish At Technology. In front of 300 trendy, young (sigh) i-thingy wielding activists, I felt like a Neanderthal at a cocktail party. Still, at least the fear of being shamed up finally got me tweeting two weeks before the conference.

I decided to make a virtue of necessity and set out some core processes in development, and then reflected on what ICT does/doesn’t contribute. Why take this approach (apart from being a techno-caveman, that is)? Because there’s too much magic bulletism in development –microfinance, GM crops and now ‘cyber utopianism’. What all of these have in common is that they are too often presented as ‘get out of jail free’ cards, delivering development without all the messy business of politics and struggle. At best, new technologies shift power balances, sometimes favourably, sometimes not, but they don’t replace the process of struggle in development.

Rights and Development

Anupama Dokeniya's picture

There is increasing convergence between the goals that human rights advocates aspire to, and the development work of the World Bank. This was the consensus reached at a panel discussion on Integrating Human Rights in PREM's work, organized as part of the Conference organized by the Poverty Reduction and Economic Management (PREM) network on May 1 and 2, 2012. The panel included Otaviano Canuto, Vice President of the Network, and other experts at the Bank working on labor, justice, poverty, and governance issues from a rights-perspective. It was moderated by Linda van Gelder, Director of the Public Sector and Governance group.

The panel showcased innovative ways in which a human rights perspective is being integrated into the Bank's work. In Vietnam, the governance team has engaged the country in looking at how right to information can further transparency and how awareness of rights can make the state more responsive to citizens.  A team in PREM is looking at the Human Opportunity Index as a means of assessing inequality of opportunity among children. The World Development Report on Jobs emphasizes the concept of ‘better jobs’ that improve societal welfare, not just ‘more jobs’. Several of these programs are supported through the Nordic Trust Fund that furthers a human rights approach to development issues.

From the World Water Forum: Water is a Human Right... Now What?

Glenn Pearce-Oroz's picture

The session on Human Right to Water has led to constructive debate and dialogue.  More interestingly, discussion on whether the human right to water implies providing water for free is no longer part of the mainstream debate. We have moved beyond this dichotomy and are now focused on figuring out how to make it work, while recognizing the costs involved. 

There were many take-away messages. We need to operationalize the definition of the human right to water,  develop more specific indicators and targets for each dimension that makes up the human right to water, and work to ensure that targets and indicators are relevant for different country contexts. Questions such as How affordable is affordable?, How safe is safe?, and How available is available? will differ between countries.


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