Know Your Rights: Participation

Participation is a human rightKnow Your Rights: Participation is a simple title for this blog, but a difficult task in reality.
To learn about your rights is essential, although it’s not easy to do. Human rights are not taught in schools, most parents don’t teach their children and employers don’t usually inform their workers about their rights. Those in ‘the know’ rarely try to share the knowledge, or help folks in the community to understand what are their rights and how to claim them.

Since 1945, the United Nations has been at the centre of developing human rights as the cornerstone for peace, development and security around the world. While it has delivered a number of important conventions and protocols, it has not been successful in explaining how these words on paper can be used on the ground.

One of these days we will be able to bring a few folks from different communities together to put various UN documents into more accessible languages. Finding information is one step, being able to get-it, learn-it, and spread-it around is another. In the meantime, here’s one of the UN’s better definitions that I found for ‘Participation’.

What does the principle of participation mean?

Participation means ensuring that national stakeholders have genuine ownership and control over development processes in all phases of the programming cycle: assessment, analysis, planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation.

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For Beyond Mere Consultation

Participation-Mai68Food for a thought beyond mere consultation
Human Rights Reader 287


-Je participe, tu participes, il participe, nous participons….. ils profittent. (1968 Paris Revolution poster)
(I participate, you participate, she/he participates, we participate… they profit.)
-For human rights processes to be truly participatory, representation has to be timely, truly active, free and meaningful, i.e., “you come; you buy the land; you make a plan, you build the house…and now you ask me what color I want for the walls of the kitchen?” is not really participation.
-For human rights, participation is both a means and a goal. (Stamford Common Understanding)

1. Oppressed people that lack the capacity for collective action are historically doomed. That is where empowerment comes-in in human rights (HR) work. Actually, for us, the very meaning of participation is empowerment. It pursues a significant input in decision making processes rather than mere consultation. In our case, among other, empowerment implies that, to make progress, claim holders have to use tools such as legal* and political action, i.e., we see participation as exercising a painstakingly earned political right. As someone said, the problem is that: “Part of being powerless is that people are always speaking on our behalf”. Are we those “people”…?
*: Seeking a redress for HR violations, access to justice and justiciability constitutes one of the tools for strengthening community empowerment initiatives; another is organizing the de-facto, vocal expression of community demands through active mobilization.

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