Academic journal article Social Development Issues

Editors' Note: Human Rights, Democracy, and Development in Latin America and the Caribbean

Academic journal article Social Development Issues

Editors' Note: Human Rights, Democracy, and Development in Latin America and the Caribbean

Article excerpt

Human rights, democracy, and development have almost become household terms in the twenty-first century as more people sing their praises and profess their commitment to advancing these concepts. Few would argue that we want to build a world without human rights, democracy, and development. But the questions must be posed, then, with so many preoccupied with and committed to these ideals over the past fifty years, why is it that there is more poverty and suffering in the world today and not less? Why has progress toward a more democratic, peaceful world stagnated? Even among the well-established macro-indicators of Freedom House (FH) and the UN Development Programme (UNDP), which routinely measure human rights, democracy, and social development around the globe, the progress of the 1990s and early 2000s has slowed and/or stagnated, and in some cases regressed (Freedom House, 2014). For instance, the UNDP's 2013 Human Development Report is optimistically titled "The Rise of the South: Human Progress in a Diverse World," but close scrutiny of the data shows that on some important measures and in key country cases, the emphasis should be on diverse (and not necessarily in a positive way) rather than progress.

Joining the ranks of a growing number of scholars, practitioners, and grassroots activists across many disciplines, we argue that it is time to vindicate the arduous work of peoples most affected by the lacunae of the promotion and implementation of these ideals. That is, it is time to remove the false veneer that has rendered them meaningless as authoritarian human rights violators profess their undying dedication to advancing human rights, democracy, and development while repressing their citizens in the streets (Peck, 2010). This is the objective of this special issue of Social Development Issues (SDI)-"Human Rights, Democracy, and Development in Latin America and the Caribbean"-to provide examples from below from Latin America and the Caribbean; examples that are engaged in authentic, progressive, and powerful work to improve the quality of life of those most oppressed and marginalized. This regionally focused edition is part of SDTs series on these themes that address the already-mentioned troublesome questions (on Asia, see Pasupuleti, Pulla, & Ealdama, 2013; Pillai, 2013). In this edition, we present seven case studies from Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala, Haiti, Mexico, Nicaragua, and Peru that reveal some of the complexities of the answers, as well as the rise of some social and political actors playing protagonist roles in the promotion of their human rights, democracy, and development.

Human Rights

Human "rights are intimately linked to the idea of 'quality of life' " (Cáceres, 2000, p. 19), and therefore they are quotidian elements in all of our lives. Discussions of human rights often address distinctions between first-generation rights, civil and political, and second-generation rights (economic, social, and cultural). This bifurcation of rights, however, does not acknowledge the importance of all of these rights for the quality of the lives of all human beings. It also demonstrates a lack of understanding of the interconnectedness of all human rights-for human rights to have meaning and power, they must be respected in their full manifestation. Unfortunately the bifurcation of rights seems to take precedence in many international discussions of human rights by governments and nongovernmental organizations alike. So what we see is that "while the discourse of human rights has increased, the application of that discourse seems to be lacking as evidenced by the growth of poverty and exploitation related to the growth of neoliberal globalization" (Barbera, 2009, p. 315). At the same time that expressed concern for human rights has become more internationally noticeable, social and economic injustice have become more rampant. In a way, it would appear that "human rights seems to be a new fad since people from all walks of life and beliefs are discussing this theme. …

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