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

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

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

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

Synopsis

Many human rights advocates agree that conventional advocacy tools- reporting abuses to international tribunals or shaming the perpetrators of human rights violations- have proven ineffective. Increasingly, social justice advocates are looking to social and economic rights strategies as promising avenues for change. However, widespread skepticism remains as to how to make such rights real on the ground.

Stones of Hope engages with the work of remarkable African advocates who have broken out of the conventional boundaries of human rights practice to challenge radical poverty. Through a sequence of case studies and interpretive essays, it illustrates how human rights can be harnessed to generate democratic institutional innovations. Ultimately, this book brings the reader down from the heights of official human rights forums to the ground level of advocacy. It is a must-read for human rights advocates, development practitioners, students, educators, and all others interested in an equitable global society.

Excerpt

More than sixty years after the worldwide adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in 1948, economic and social rights (ESR)—the very foundation of human survival and well-being—still elude billions of people, especially the estimated 1.4 billion people who live in extreme poverty. Making ESR operational is an enormous challenge for human rights activists, development practitioners, lawyers, and citizens. The important new book Stones of Hope, edited by Lucie White and Jeremy Perelman, explores this critical topic persuasively and creatively, by delving deeply into several African case studies where ESR has made a real difference in people’s rights and well-being. The cases—involving urban evictions, access to AIDS treatment, rural land tenure, and the healthcare rights of indigents—are terrific in their own right, and in combination make the powerful point that ESR can be a driver of deliberative democracy, institutional innovation, and significant betterment of the living conditions of the poor.

For the world’s poorest people, daily life is a struggle for survival, with millions of impoverished people each year losing that struggle to famine, disease, environmental catastrophes, and violent conflicts that arise in conditions of extreme deprivation. Similar desperation applies to girls and women in societies where legal, political, and social institutions offer them scant opportunities and little protection from violence, and to ethnic minorities and indigenous populations that are deprived of access to basic social services and protection by the political system. Ironically, in many parts of the world it is often the descendants of the first arrivals—the indigenous communities—who suffer the bitterest combination of poverty and exclusion. Today’s dominant groups often wrested their dominance through conquest and exploitation of the indigenous inhabitants and maintain power through violence and extralegal methods.

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