1. Capacity/accountability analyses (that tell us why duty bearers at many levels do not seem to be able to perform their duties as expected) are a cornerstone of Human Rights planning.
  2. The key question is: Who gets to do these needed analyses and who the calling to account?
  3. It sometimes sounds too much as if it is some outside authority who is going to do these things for us and, ‘with a lightning bolt call the sinners to account’.
  4. This attitude/suggestion that some outside agency will/must do this has to be combated. The task cannot simply be disembodied and left up to outsiders.
  5. Primary (but not exclusive) attention needs to be given to local grassroots groups to lead these analyses.
  6. Bottom line: it is unthinkable to talk about capacity/accountability analyses in any other way than in a participatory way.
  7. But we should not concentrate too narrowly on grassroots either; agents at all levels have roles to play; we need to figure out their (and our own) respective responsibilities and inter-relationships in this endeavour.
  8. National governments need to be actively lobbied to concretize their commitments to pass framework national Human Rights laws.
  9. Ambitious capacity/accountability analyses risk leading us to too many priorities. We have to reduce the analyses to a limited set of claim-duty relationships that are likely to be most critical in a given situation.
  10. If not limited, we risk ending up with a very large number of claim-duty relationships and actors who we will not be able to productively involve in new actions for which we will now hold them accountable.
  11. Therefore, the recommendation is to –with people’s participation– arrive at a list of the most crucial three or four ‘sins of omissions’ for each particular set of selected rights violations; later in an AAA (Assessment/Analysis/Action) cycle, people can reevaluate and pick their new priorities.

On Goals and Means

  1. We always need to keep in mind that Human Rights do not proscribe –they prescribe–and on broad goals at that.
  2. Human Rights do not specify means for reaching those broad goals.
  3. There thus is a separation in Human Rights work between goal setting and figuring out how to reach them: The first part is to a great extent done already; the second is history in the making.
  4. For the time being –and hopefully not for too long– it is we (you and I and growing numbers of others) who are called upon to take up the challenge of furthering the operational aspects of Human Rights so as to translate them into concrete actions.
  5. As we do so, we have to be absolutely clear that there is no neutral territory in combating oppression and eradicating poverty.
  6. Those who believe in neutrality will ultimately become prey to the agendas of the conservative social forces.
  7. As long as the movement for Human Rights does not seek to dismantle the structures of power that breed and sustain inequity with its accompanying Human Rights violations, the latter will remain untouched or just cleverly manipulated to make them look like progress.
  8. Work on Human Rights, as well as work on reshuffling power relations to tackle the problems of poverty will have to pass through gaining the support of the middle class. For example, health services must be made equally accessible to all on a basis that is perceived as fair by all; this also means that Human Rights principles have to be equally applied to all citizens –not only to the poor.
  9. The current emphasis on privatizing the provision of health services and on targeting only the victims of the most severe violations (alas to offer them only token palliative measures) goes in exactly the opposite direction of what is meant here.
  10. Such current policies are unmistakably making the solidarity work needed for the attainment of Human Rights next to impossible.
  11. Therefore, rights should not be theorized in the sense of claims playing themselves out in a vacuum.
  12. Achieving them will mean a struggle.
  13. Rights are not a standard granted from above, but a standard bearer around which people have to rally to bring about a struggle from below.
  14. Know where you stand and know on whose side you wish to be counted as an actor.

The Right to Information

  1. All peoples and all nations have the right to share their knowledge with one another.
  2. It is thus vital that a proper balance be struck between the ownership interests of knowledge producers and the public good interests of knowledge users.
  3. The international community has to come to the realization that the right to knowledge is far too important to be left to commercial forces only.
  4. The much-heralded ‘knowledge societies’ of the information superhighway will amount to little more than paper tigers if their governance is delegated to the marketplace:
  5. The market will simply produce and distribute knowledge according to people’s purchasing capacities.
  6. Conversely, a Human Rights-inspired system of governance will favor the availability of knowledge not according to people’s means, but according to people’s needs and aspirations.


– Kent. G. Personal e-mail dated 26/2/2001.

– Jonsson, U. (2000): An approach to Human Rights-based programming in UNICEF ESAR, SCN News, No.20, July, pp.6-9.

– Manji, F. (1999): Editorial, in Development and Rights, A Development in Practice Reader, Oxfam Publications.

– Shivji, I. (1989): The concept of Human Rights in Africa, CODESRIA, p.71.

– Hamelink, C.J. (2000): Who has the right to know?, UNRISD News, No.23, Autumn/winter, p.20.

– UNRISD (2000): Social policy in a development context, UNRISD News, No.23, Autumn/Winter, pp.10+11.

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