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This Week in PubHub: Civil and Human Rights

January 06, 2011

(Kyoko Uchida manages PubHub, the Foundation Center's online catalog of foundation-sponsored publications. In her last post, she looked at four reports that explore the landscape of impact investing.)

Every January, in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, PubHub features reports on the topic of civil and human rights. This week's focus is on the protection and promotion of international human rights, whether through regional courts or development agencies.

The Open Society Foundations' study From Judgment to Justice: Implementing International and Regional Human Rights Decisions suggests that multilateral human rights mechanisms -- including the European Court of Human Rights and the Committee of Ministers, the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights and the African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, and the United Nations Human Rights Committee -- are struggling to implement their decisions on the ground. If the judgments are not effectively enforced, the report's authors argue, the very legitimacy of the courts could be undermined. The report calls for strengthening the procedures for monitoring and promoting implementation by, for example, developing national legal regimes governing implementation and reporting mechanisms, allocating greater resources to follow-up efforts, and fostering cross-system dialogue among human rights systems.

Report on Citizen Security and Human Rights, issued in December 2009 by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, finds that in Organization of American States member countries, many factors -- including the history and structure of the state and society, government policies and programs, the relevance of economic, social and cultural rights, and international and regional conditions -- are undermining the protection of citizens from crime and violence perpetrated by state and non-state actors. The report outlines governments' international obligations and urges states to adopt a human rights perspective on citizen security -- bolstering democratic participation, implementing comprehensive public policies to ensure that human rights are respected, and strengthening institutions, laws, programs, and practices.

Not only are governments obligated to protect their own citizens' rights, they should also be held accountable for promoting human rights as an integral part of international development efforts, a new report from the World Resources Institute argues. The report, A Roadmap for Integrating Human Rights Into the World Bank Group, suggests, for example, that political repression, discrimination, and poor health conditions for local workers are likely to prevent outside investment from generating poverty reduction and net development benefits. In part because the economic benefits of human rights protections are not easily quantified, however, open dialogue about a human rights approach to development is not yet the norm within the World Bank Group. The report recommends short- and medium-term strategic goals for human rights integration, including improving assessments of risks and empowering communities to use the World Bank's grievance mechanisms to address rights violations.

However flawed or limited, some of these multilateral efforts are actually advancing the protection of human rights around the world. Which makes Experiments in Torture: Evidence of Human Subject Research and Experimentation in the "Enhanced" Interrogation Program, a report from Physicians for Human Rights, all the more difficult to read. The report examines the evidence in three cases in which the United States involved medical professionals in monitoring detainee interrogations, analyzing the results, and drawing inferences applicable to subsequent interrogations. Highlighting the implications for public trust in the healing profession, the authors recommend a federal investigation as well as legal, executive, congressional, and other actions.

What role should philanthropy play in protecting and promoting human and civil rights around the globe? Is the presence of a robust civil society a precursor for the protection of rights? And is a human rights-first approach more likely to lead to sustainable economic development? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

And don’t forget to visit PubHub, where you can browse over a hundred reports on civil and human rights.

-- Kyoko Uchida

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