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The Human Rights Dialogue

Foundationalism Reconsidered

Maria Granik

In this article, I defend the need for meaningful dialogue about the foundations of human rights. The article consists of four main parts. Part I provides context for the argument by discussing the status of foundations in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and several other human rights legal instruments. Part II outlines the main criticisms of foundationalism by Michael Ignatieff and Richard Rorty. Part III deals with two main problems raised by anti-foundationalist positions. First, the motivation to defend and implement human rights is often tied to a rational understanding of why these rights are worthy of protection. Second, rejecting the search for rational foundations can itself lead to ideological problems, even if this search cannot ultimately succeed. Silence concerning justifications for rights informs our conversation about them, and making any concealed underlying assumptions explicit can be valuable. Finally, Part IV discusses ways in which a genuinely dialogical foundationalism can be possible - one that does not fall into the trap of dogmatism. More specifically, this section addresses the possibility of a secular foundationalism by examining Michael Perry's critique of this approach.

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Human rights-based service delivery

Assessing the role of national human rights institutions in democracy and development in Ghana and Uganda

Richard Iroanya, Patrick Dzimiri and Edith Phaswana

English abstract: This article examines the extent to which National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) in Ghana and Uganda contribute to the strengthening of democracy and sustainable development in those countries. A human rights-based approach is used to investigate human rights violations, marginalization, exclusions, and discrimination against vulnerable groups in society. This article examines whether NHRIs are proactive in adopting preventive measures to protect and promote human rights within the African context. The study utilized a qualitative methodology and a case study design. It found that the legal environment on which NHRIs are located and their operations largely determine their effectiveness, as well as whether good governance and sustainable development are achievable.

Spanish abstract: Este artículo examina hasta qué punto las Instituciones Nacionales de Derechos Humanos (INDH) en Ghana y Uganda contribuyen al fortalecimiento de la democracia y el desarrollo sostenible en esos países. Se utiliza un enfoque basado en los derechos humanos para investigar las violaciones de los derechos humanos, la marginación, las exclusiones y la discriminación contra los grupos vulnerables de la sociedad. Este artículo examina si las INDH son proactivas a la hora de adoptar medidas preventivas para proteger y promover los derechos humanos en el contexto africano. La investigación requirió de una metodología cualitativa y un diseño de estudio de caso. Se descubrió que el entorno legal en el que se encuentran las INDH y sus operaciones determinan en gran medida su eficacia, así como también si se puede lograr una buena gobernanza y un desarrollo sostenible.

French abstract: Cet article examine dans quelle mesure les institutions nationales des droits de l’homme (INDH) au Ghana et en Ouganda contribuent au renforcement de la démocratie et du développement durable dans ces pays. Une approche fondée sur les droits de l’homme est utilisée pour enquêter sur les violations des droits de l’homme, la marginalisation, les exclusions et les discriminations à l’encontre des groupes vulnérables de la société. Cet article examine si les INDH sont proactives dans l’adoption de mesures préventives pour protéger et promouvoir ces droits dans le contexte africain. L’étude a utilisé une méthodologie qualitative et une étude de cas. Il a été constaté que l’environnement juridique dans lequel les INDH sont ancrées ainsi que leurs opérations déterminent en grande partie leur efficacité et les conditions de réalisation de la bonne gouvernance et du développement durable.

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Helmut Graupner

The basic human right to sexual autonomy and self‐determination encompasses two sides: it enshrines both the right to engage in wanted sexuality on the one hand, and the right to be free and protected from unwanted sexuality, from sexual abuse and sexual violence on the other. This concept elaborated by the European Court of Human Rights, in the light of European legal consensus, suggests that the age of consent for sexual relations (outside of relationships of authority and outside of pornography and prostitution) should be set between 12 and 16 years. In any event the age of criminal responsibility should be the same as the age of sexual consent.

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A human rights-based approach

A gate to development of African women's land rights?

Karin Tengnäs

The global competition for African land is at a historical peak. Local effects of large-scale land acquisitions depend on multiple factors, but women's rights and livelihoods are generally very fragile due to historical and contemporary injustices. Good land governance is important for turning the land acquisitions into equal and equitable development opportunities. The human rights-based approach promotes good governance by adding strength and legal substance to the principles of participation and inclusion, openness and transparency, accountability and the rule of law, and equality and nondiscrimination. By empowering rights-holders and enhancing duty-bearers' capacity, international development cooperation can lead to wider and more gender-balanced inclusion of civil society in negotiations of large-scale land acquisitions and greater adherence of duty-bearers to the rule of law. This is especially important in African countries with large amounts of land and weak legal and institutional frameworks to protect rights, especially those of women.

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Human Rights, Victimhood, and Impunity

An Anthropology of Democracy in Argentina

Michael Humphrey and Estela Valverde

This article explores human rights politics in the transition from dictatorship to democracy in Argentina. Its ethnographic focus is the phenomenon of families of victims associations, usually led by mothers, that first emerged to protest against mass disappearance under the military dictatorship. Democracy has also produced new families of victims associations protesting against different forms of state abuse and/or neglect. They represent one face of the widespread protest against a 'culture of impunity' experienced as ongoing insecurity and injustice. Private grief is made an emotional resource for collective action in the form of 'political mourning'. The media, street demonstrations, and litigation are used to try to make the state accountable. State management of this public suffering has sought to determine legitimate victimhood based on a paradigm of innocence. The political mourning of victims and survivors charts the social margins of citizenship in the reduced, not expanded, neo-liberal democratic state in Argentina.

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Critical Engagements of NGOs for Global Human Rights Protection

A New Epoch of Cosmopolitanism for Larger Freedom?

On-Kwok Lai

Since the mid-1990s, the international norms for global development have been redefined under non-governmental organizations’ (NGOs) critical e-mobilizations, powered by new media. International governmental organizations (IGOs) have been forced to make policy adjustments or concessions, resulting in new IGOs-NGOs policy regimes for consultative consensus building and for protecting people’s economic, social, and cultural rights (ESC) for enhancing social quality. This paper examines the emerging cosmopolitanism in the information age, focusing on NGOs’ advocacy networks, to understand the new media-enhanced participatory regime for global governance. It also illustrates a new form of social participation, as promoted by social quality theory, in the age of e-globalization and the information society. The paper has five parts. After outlining the globalization project threatening ESC rights, the second section examines critical engagements of NGOs and IGOs for human rights promotion. Parts three and four discuss, respectively, the struggles for ESC rights in shaping new ethics and norms for global development, and the variations of new social media mobilization. The paper ends with critical remarks on the project for larger freedom and human rights for all.

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John Pearson

This paper asks whether David Miller's minimalist theory of human rights is coherent with his claim that obligations of global justice involve obligations to provide people with a minimally decent life. I argue that there is a justice gap in Miller's theory: the structure of his distinction between basic and societal needs is such that people will be left below the level of minimal decency even when obligations of justice are met. Miller can either bite this bullet or look for alternative sources of obligations of justice. I take up the second option by arguing that there can be obligations of global justice to build institutions that enable societies to generate income and wealth.

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Tomas Max Martin

Ugandan prison staff both criticize and welcome human rights as a reform agenda that brings about insecurity as well as tangible improvements. In practice, human rights discourse is malleable enough for prison officers to cobble together a take on human rights that enables them to embrace the concept. The analysis of the emic notion of “reasonable caning” illustrates this malleability as staff concurrently take stands against inhumane violence and continue to legitimize caning while aligning with human rights. Human rights are locally negotiated, and it is argued that human rights reform cannot simply be analyzed as a submissive or opposing reaction to the top-down export of powerful global discourses. The embrace of human rights that unfolds in Ugandan prisons is rather a productive and multifaceted effort by prison officers to get purchase on legal technologies and reconceptualizations of prison management practices that affect their lives.

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Pierre Makhlouf

The persecution of ethnic and social minorities during the Second World War led to the creation of customary international human rights law. These laws serve to protect the fundamental rights and civil liberties of all individuals; even when a person is brought before a criminal court their right to justice will be protected. Through its immigration policies, the UK government aims to create a ‘hostile environment’. The detention of migrants has become the norm, and immigrants have been criminalized through the introduction of criminal offences including entering the UK on false or no documents. The increase in foreign nationals convicted of such criminal offences is portrayed as evidence that criminal migrants are a danger to public safety. Laws have been changed and the role of the courts to protect the rights of children to a family life eroded to further the hostile environment.

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Roger Deacon

Human Rights as Politics and Idolatry, by Michael Ignatieff. Edited and introduced by Amy Gutmann, with comments by K. Anthony Appiah, David A. Hollinger, Thomas W. Laqueur and Diane F. Orentlicher, and a response by Ignatieff. Princeton University Press: Princeton and Oxford, 2001. ISBN: 0691114749.