IDS OpenDocs

    Unpacking rights and wrongs : do human rights make a difference? : the case of water rights in India and South Africa

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    This paper focuses on why poor and marginalised people still lack access to economic, social and cultural rights (also known as positive rights), despite a fairly mainstream support to positive rights in mainstream development debates. In part this is due to the problematic division between so-called first and second generation of rights. This is particularly true in the water debate where dominant narratives more often see water as an economic good rather than as a human right. Rights also fail to be realised due to sins of omission where poor states may lack the institutional capacity or financial resources to provide rights. Similarly, citizens may not be aware of rights and may not have the capacity to mobilise around them. Lack of rights may also be due to sins of commission. Thus states or non-state actors such as the World Bank may knowingly put vulnerable people’s rights at risk or even violate them with impunity. Economic globalisation also leads to policies that violate basic rights where diffuse and unclear rules of accountability exist for global and local players. The paper focuses on the right to water in South Africa to examine sins of omission and looks at forced displacement caused by the Narmada dams in India to examine sins of commission. In both cases, it examines local-level dynamics of rights grievances and claims and argues that there is a blurriness between policy and practice around rights practice and violation and that there are often overlaps between sins of omission and commission. Finally, the paper highlights the need for accountability structures and mechanisms through which compliance and answerability can become an indispensable aspect of the human rights regime. Keywords: human rights; economic, social and cultural rights; citizenship; accountability; right to water; forced displacement; Narmada Project; India and South Africa

    Constructing transnational action research networks : observations and reflections from the case of the Citizenship DRC

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    Many contemporary issues of development and governance are complex beyond the capacities of single institutions or countries. As a result, in recent years we have seen growing attention paid to the importance of networks – ranging from advocacy networks to multi-stakeholder partnerships – for the solution of development problems. This paper is particularly interested in the construction of transnational action research networks that effectively bridge the differences that separate the local from the global, practice from research, North from South, and many relevant disciplines from one another. Such networks must span inequalities in power and resources as well as differences in cultural and intellectual perspectives. Using a unique ‘insider-outsider’ perspective, the paper examines the emergence (during the period 2000–2005) of the Development Research Centre on Citizenship, Participation and Accountability, a network of seven partners – from the UK, India, Bangladesh, Nigeria, South Africa, Mexico and Brazil – concerned with research, capacity building and policy influence on these issues. This case is interesting for several reasons. First the research available on long-term collaboration between Northern and Southern research institutions is very limited. Second, the longitudinal study offers opportunities for understanding development processes that are not visible to the more common comparisons of cases at one time in their history. Finally this research also offers opportunities to look at the challenges of building transnational networks as they emerge across several levels. These represent the areas that are not well developed in existing research on inter-organisational networks. Keywords: action research, research partnerships, networks, citizenship

    Streetwalkers show the way : reframing the global debate on trafficking from sex workers' perspectives

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    This paper documents action research and discussions on trafficking by Durbar, a network of 60,000 female, male and transgender sex workers in India. Durbar finds that the realities of trafficking as experienced by sex workers are very different from the myths. Durbar’s research found that while most of the sex workers they interviewed were poor and lacked options, they left home by their own choice, in search of better livelihoods, to escape violence or drudgery, or to seek love. Numerous agents, many of them known to the trafficked individuals, facilitated their subsequent travels and entry into sex work. Many of those trafficked into sex work were able to negotiate better terms within a year or two, after which they were free to leave but stayed in the industry because of the economic incentives, and because returning to their families was no longer an option due to the stigma associated with sex work. Durbar concludes that the fundamental cause of trafficking is the persistent demand for using trafficked workers who can be made to work without being provided fair wages or safe working conditions, thereby hiking the profit margins of the employers. Thus Durbar sees as most urgent the need to establish better labour standards in sex work, and support individual sex workers tackling exploitative situations. This includes supporting unwilling and underage sex workers by helping them decide what to do, rather than handing them over to the police where they are likely to face more harassment. Durbar has done this effectively through setting up ‘Self Regulatory Boards’ in sex work sites. To date Durbar has rescued a total of 560 unwilling women and underage girls. And in sites where Durbar works, the proportion of sex workers under 18 years old declined from 25.3 per cent in 1992 to 3.1 per cent in 2001. Keywords: sexuality; sexual rights; sex work; prostitution; trafficking

    Who are the middle class in Zambia?

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    The middle class is increasingly becoming a topical issue in Zambia. However, the lack of a definitive measure of the middle class in the country makes it difficult to have targeted policies towards this group of people, perceived worldwide to be the drivers of economic growth. With high and rising income inequality in Zambia, we define the middle class based on the median and on a ‘relative affluence’ perspective. Findings show that the ‘middle class’ (as understood in everyday usage) is not in the middle of the income distribution. And those who are in the middle are not ‘middle class’ (in the sense of being above some minimum level of affluence). Defining the middle class on the basis of the ‘actual middle’ versus ‘relative affluence’ provides vastly different pictures. This implies that targeted policy designs are required when referring to changes in the economic status of the Zambian middle class. If the middle class is conceptualised in terms of relative affluence, growing the relative size of the middle class would have economic benefits such as growing the pool of people with skilled occupations and raising consumer demand within the domestic economy, which could lead to higher economic growth. In contrast, if the middle class is defined as the actual middle group, then increasing the relative size of the middle class – many of whom are quite poor – would imply supporting economic policies that favour the poor and non-affluent and thus decrease the income gap. This view of the middle class provides an important tool for understanding the status of the ‘average’ Zambian and provides policy makers with a more balanced assessment of development in the country

    The right to know, the right to live: grassroots struggle for information and work in India

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    This study attempts to develop an understanding of the iterative and multi-scaled process involved in transforming the state from below by examining the relationship between two of the most politicised rights-based legislations in India: the Right to Information Act (RTI) and the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA). Based on one and a half years of ethnographic and interview based research, and five years of working with the RTI campaign, I examine the reciprocal relationship between the rights to information and work, and the multi-scaled activism necessary to instantiate both. First, I trace different phases of the struggle for the right to information, beginning with the creation of alternative public spheres, Jan sunwais (or rural public hearings) that responded to demands for the right to work in rural Rajasthan. Second, as this demand culminated in a broad-based advocacy network, I examine the role of actors from diverse institutional arenas that succeeded in passing the national RTI legislation. I also look at how the same national network of activists introduced the public accountability mechanism of social audits, inspired by the Jan sunwai, into the new right to work law or NREGA. Finally, bringing the process full circle, I look at the ongoing efforts of the MKKS and the Suchna Evum Rozgar Adhikar Abhiyan (The Right to Information and Work Campaign) to implement the right to work on the ground in rural Rajasthan. In contrast to existing studies, I provide a more comprehensive analysis of the interdependent struggle for rights to information and work as one long iterative process to transform the state from below. I conclude with some reflections on the different vision of “transparency” and “accountability” emerging from rural grassroots struggles and what the RTI and NREGA experiences teach us about the possibilities for their realisation

    Short- and Long-Term Impact of Violence on Education: The Case of Timor Leste

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    This paper analyzes the impact of the wave of violence that occurred in Timor Leste in 1999 on education outcomes. We examine the short-term impact of the violence on school attendance in 2001 and its longer-term impact on primary school completion of the same cohorts of children observed again in 2007. We compare the educational impact of the 1999 violence with the impact of other periods of high-intensity violence during the 25 years of Indonesian occupation. The short-term effects of the conflict are mixed. In the longer term, we find evidence of a substantial loss of human capital among boys in Timor Leste who were exposed to peaks of violence during the 25-year long conflict. The evidence suggests that this result may be due to household trade offs between education and economic welfare

    Shocks and social protection in the Horn of Africa : analysis from the Productive Safety Net Programme in Ethiopia

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    Using panel data from the Ethiopian Productive Safety Net Program, this paper explores the degree to which this social protection programme has been successful in protecting its beneficiaries against the various shocks that have affected the Horn of Africa in the recent past. The analysis suggests that although the PSNP has managed to improve households’ food security and wellbeing, the positive effects of the programme are not robust enough to shield recipients completely against the impacts of severe shocks. Key-words: coping strategies; resilience; vulnerability; poverty; Africa

    The Tanzania Economy. “No worst there is none…”

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    Go Forth and...What? Reflections on the World Council of Churches Transnational Corporation Programme

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    Written for the European Council of Churches (ECC) Consultations, 1977
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