Gender, Justice, Development, and Rights

Gender, Justice, Development, and Rights

Gender, Justice, Development, and Rights

Gender, Justice, Development, and Rights


Recent years have seen a shift in the international development agenda in the direction of a greater emphasis on rights and democracy. This brought many positive changes in women's rights and political representation as well as in human rights more broadly. In much of the world, however,these advances were not matched by significant progress in the achievement of greater social justice. Rising income inequalities, coupled with widespread poverty in many countries, have been accompanied by record levels of crime and violence. Meanwhile the global shift in the consensus over the roleof the state in welfare provision has in many contexts entailed the down-sizing of public services and the re-allocation of service delivery to commercial interests, charitable groups, NGOs and households. This volume reflects on this ambivalent record, and on the significance accorded in international development policy to rights and democracy in the post-Cold War era. Key items on the contemporary policy agenda-neo-liberal economic and social policies; democracy; and multiculturalism-are addressedhere by leading scholars and regional specialists through theoretical reflections and detailed case studies. Together they constitute a collection which casts contemporary liberalism in a distinctive light by applying a gender perspective to the analysis of political and policy processes. Casestudies from Latin America, sub-Saharan Africa, Middle East, East-Central Europe, South and South-east Asia contribute a cross-cultural dimension to the analysis of contemporary liberalism - the dominant value system in the modern world-and how it exists, and is resisted, in developing andpost-transition societies.


The 1980s and 1990s saw the collapse of authoritarian regimes in many parts of the world. This revitalized the debate over democratic and participatory governance and gave a major impulse to human rights agendas. ln this context, women's movements flourished as strong advocates of women's rights and attained a considerable number of legal and institutional advances. And yet the last two decades of the twentieth century also saw the ascendance of neo-liberal agendas in many parts of the world, with regressive social and economic consequences. This has placed significant constraints on the substantiation of human rights in general, and women's rights in particular.

From their diverse regional perspectives, the contributions to this volume reflect on the gender content of the new policy agenda and how it has been translated and contested in disparate local contexts. The volume grows out of a two-year (1999-2001) research project at the United Nations Research Institute of Social Development (UNRISD) in Geneva. Some of the commissioned papers which appear here were presented and discussed at an UNRISD Workshop that took place in New York on 3 June 2000, coincide with the General Assembly Special Session for the Beijing Plus Five Review. At this meeting, six members of the research team, and the editors of the volume, presented their work on issues of gender justice, development, and rights. The immediate output from the Workshop was a short report circulated at the Special Session of the General Assembly. Later, the edited version of the report was published as an issue of the UNRISD Conference News series, Gender Justice, Development and Rights: Substantiating Rights in a Disabling Environment.

Financial assistance for the preparation of this manuscript, and the UNRISD Workshop in New York, was provided by the Swedish International Development Agency (Sida) and UNRISD's core funders, the governments of Denmark, Finland, Mexico, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.

Thandika Mkandawire



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