13. ON THE ROLE OF THE STATE, THE UN AND CIVIL SOCIETY

  1. Human Rights are plainly not guaranteed by the existing institutional arrangements.[We have to understand this as a point of departure]. (AmartyaSen)
  2. A country becomes State Party to a convention or covenant once it has ratified it. The same is then binding and the state is obliged to take what are considered appropriate steps.
  3. As the duty bearer, the state is then considered to have a contractual relationship with the rights holders.
  4. Additionally, the state has to periodically report to the UN on progress made in implementing the prescriptions of the covenant.
  5. States’ compliance with their obligations under each covenant is thus to be monitored by the international community ultimately via the UN.
  6. This double (reporting/monitoring) mechanism, in theory, should help decrease our level of past frustrations since, now, international monitoring is no longer excluded and can no longer be considered as an external interference (!) even when taken up by international NGOs and civil society organizations alone or together with local partners.
  7. Such international monitoring aims at establishing a dialogue with those states that can be shown deliberately to violate Human Rights, or more commonly, to omit pursuing explicit policies towards the realization of these rights.
  8. All this amounts to nothing but the restoration of the mandate already contained in the original (over 50 years old) UN Charter to pursue Human Rights.
  9. It is probably only a matter of time before all UN agencies will have explicitly committed themselves to a Human Rights approach (which will permeate all agencies) and carry out this monitoring mandate as related to their specific/respective mandates.
  10. The Human Rights component of their programs will now have to cut across all the agencies’ political and technical priorities.
  11. To this should be added the same agencies’ new responsibility of advising interested member states in the drafting of so-called ‘framework legislation’ towards the formulation and implementation of domestic Human Rights laws.
  12. In short, in the future, the comparative advantage of the UN agencies will rest far more on their capacity to generate ideas and to shape of the normative framework for development and health than on their ability to transfer resources.
  13. This transition from general commitments and principles to actual implementation will need time especially since the respect for Human Rights often goes against dominant economic interests, against the interests of Globalization and those of entrenched power elites. But this represents a challenge rather than a constraint.
  14. The misconception that the realization of rights is necessarily costly will have to be vigorously countered as well.
  15. Moreover, it should be understood that the state does not always have to be the direct ‘provider’; it can and often will be the facilitator of and guarantor for primary Human Rights actions taken by others in society.
  16. While the UN remains critical for advocacy actions, for standard setting and guidance, it is essential that country-level initiatives be developed.
  17. In this endeavor, continued gaps in communication and understanding between Human Rights advocates/analysts and practitioners remains a major problem.
  18. For example, many NGOs are still unfamiliar with the Human Rights potential to strengthen their work.

Reference:

  • Barth Eide, W. (2000): The promotion of a Human Rights perspective on food security: Highlights of an evolving process, Chapter 14 in Clay,W. and Stokke, O. (eds.) Food and Human Security, Cass Publishers.
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