Food for a detrimental thought

Human rights: Food for a detrimental thought
Human Rights Reader 394


Human rights are not just the prerogative of prosperous nations; (neither are social protection institutions). (M. Loewe).

1. A widespread lack of understanding-of and misperceptions-about human rights (HR) is one of the mother-of-all-problems we have in our work. Therefore, in our HR work, we absolutely need to vernacularize, to give meaning and to frame HR so people can understand and then take ownership of their rights. The information most needed in this is the one to be used for myth busting in the realm of HR.
*By now, we ought to know this*

2. Human rights particularly apply to those who are disadvantaged, excluded, ignored or demeaned. Consequently, *HR do address the distributional, structural and other wrongs experienced by these out-groups. This actually means addressing five main purposes or dimensions of HR work, namely*,
• the redressing of disadvantages;
• the addressing of stigma, of stereotyping, of prejudice and of violence;
• the embracing of difference;
• the pursuit and achievement of structural changes; and for the latter,
• enhancing the voice and influence of claim holders leading to their staking of concrete claims.

3. These five dimensions embrace the more dynamic conception of HR particularly as regards achieving equality. Using this disaggregation, HR are better able to respond to the real and concrete wrongs as experienced by women, children, minorities and other out-groups.
The aim of human rights work is not necessarily to eliminate difference, but to prohibit the detriment attached to such difference.

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Indian Civil Society Under Attack

We have become increasingly concerned about the growing threat to the future of Indian civil society, and specifically of its NGOs. The danger is not from an apathy of the population or lack of participation of diverse communities – the threat is from the Government of India (GOI). The GOI is seeking to restrict civil society and to silence any NGO that questions the policies of the ruling party. One of the tools of repression by the government is the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA), a law which restricts any funding for Indian NGOs that comes from abroad. The FCRA is an Indian act of Parliament, by the 42nd Act of 2010. It is “to regulate the acceptance and utilisation of foreign contribution or foreign hospitality by certain individuals or associations or companies and to prohibit acceptance and utilisation of foreign contribution or foreign hospitality for any activities detrimental to the national interest and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.”

As most civil society organisations (CSOs) in the developing world, Indian NGOs are often supported by donations and grants from foundations or individual philanthropy from developed countries, and many of these CSOs survive only because of this international assistance as the GOI does not offer any resources. Since it became law in 2010, the FCRA has made it more difficult to secure funding from abroad, which was already a challenge — a barrier that is well known to NGOs around the world.

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