Stones of Hope: How African Activists Reclaim Human Rights to Challenge Global Poverty

Article excerpt

Stones of Hope: How African Activists Reclaim Human Rights to Challenge Global Poverty, Edited by Lucie E. White and Jeremy Perelman. Stanford, CA: Board of Trustees of the Leland Stanford Junior University, 2011. Pp. 249. $24.95 (paperback).

Written more than sixty years after the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Stones of Hope examines economic and social rights across Africa, taking a critical look at the framework of human rights practice and the multifaceted approaches of activism. The editors compiled four case studies from different African countries to exemplify a variety of advocacy strategies at work, as well as to illustrate common actors, challenges, and lessons.

The first case study, "A Place to Live: Resisting Evictions in Ijora- Badia Nigeria," chronicles a World Bank drainage project in Lagos, Nigeria that led to the government's expulsion of thousands of indigents and destruction of their homes. A recurring theme throughout Stones of Hope is the well-intentioned international organization or donor whose efforts sometimes backfire, aggravating the situation of the intended beneficiaries. In this case study, the Social and Economic Rights Action Center advocated for the displaced, ultimately ensuring that future financiers recognize the need for performing a human-rights impact assessment before initiating a project.

The next case study, "Cultural Transformation, Deep Institutional Reform and ESR Practice: South Africa's Treatment Action Campaign (TAC)," documents the intense struggle for a national treatment plan for South Africans with HIV/AIDS. TAC achieved success through both litigation and publicized pressure on multinational corporations, in this case "big pharma," relying on an international network of rights groups to draw media attention to corporate responsibility.

"The Evictions at Nyamuma, Tanzania," differs from the other case studies by showing a failure of a human rights commission. This case study focuses on the mass evictions of the Nyamuma people from Tanzania's savanna. …