Civicus Meeting

Human Rights Paradigms and the Global South

ACTION Support Centre attended a meeting at CIVICUS organised by Camila Asano and Laura Waisbich from CONECTAS, an International Human Rights NGO based in Brazil.

CONECTAS is actively involved in advocacy, strategic litigation, and use of human rights mechanisms, production and dissemination of knowledge, capacity building of human rights defenders, as well as linking global South GOs/CSOs and other parties committed in the fight for rights.

The meeting highlighted the role of CONECTAS in the Foreign Policy of Brazil. The two representatives encouraged other CSOs of developing countries to initiate open discussions on their role in influencing decision-making on their countries’ foreign policy with regards to human rights. Their work started in 2005, though they faced challenges from the beginning to have access to Brazil’s foreign policy document and legislations, but at later stage their efforts paid off, as they can claim that they are able to influence Brazil’s foreign policy. They shared the following tips as part their strategy:

1. Information on Brazil voting behavior at the UN

2. To build a strong network (in Brazil and elsewhere) like with CIVICUS and others

3. Media (press) inviting them to activities

4. To position themselves for check and balance

They argued that scholars from developing countries should discuss, publish and share reports about human rights amongst those in the global South, as well as sharing experiences of how to engage government to enhance records on human rights. There is no doubt that the South suffers from the North’s Foreign Policy. Therefore, South–South cooperation between CSOs must deepen, as it is happening at state level, with regards to IBSA, given their influences in the global economy.

ACTION is of the view that a major paradigm shift is required in the way rights and rights violations are understood. The dominant view on what constitutes a rights violation suggests that the global South has more human rights violations that any other part of the world. This view argues that countries such as North Korea, Iran, Zimbabwe, Democratic Republic of Congo, and China amongst others; are the key areas where oppression and repression happen regularly against journalists, civic groups, activists, and opposition leaders as well as against people demonstrating or expressing their freedoms or rights. While of course there is much truth in this narrative there are other places where rights have been and continue to be consistently violated, including Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and even against minority groups within the borders of established democracies, like the U.S.A., Europe and Australia. These violations draw far less attention, but are equally cause for major concern. Declaring war and the armed invasion of territories in violation of international law is surely also the most critical abuse of power that needs to be addressed. Care needs to be taken not to allow a manipulative western agenda to co-opt the rights agenda for purposes that are often not driven by the need for universal respect of all rights, including cultural and socio-economic rights, and the right to safety and human security.

In conclusion, there is common acknowledgement that CSOs and NGOs must work for the advancement of democracy and human rights, and provisions must be made to align domestic with international law, and also deal with the issue of the interpretation and implementation of international law, as well as the necessity for sharing experiences between developing countries with regards to the promotion of human rights. This domestic approach should also be bolstered with the building of a solidarity movement that can shift the paradigm on human and people’s rights, and challenge all rights violations wherever they occur.