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Because globalization has facilitated the formation of transnational networks of activists, north-south NGO partnerships, and transborder linkages of a broad spectrum of social movements, it has often been credited with enhancing the popular legitimacy of human rights worldwide. But globalization can also pose serious challenges for groups that use a human rights framework. The state-based framework of human rights obligations, for example, has become quite problematic in a world in which the fulfillment of rights in developing countries often depends on the political and economic institutions of developed states, powerful nonstate actors, and the structure of international institutions. Many governments lack the resources to provide their citizens with access to basic health care and education. These resource constraints are often caused by changes in patterns of foreign investment, trade flows and world market prices over which individual governments exercise little control. Moreover, dependence on foreign creditors, international institutions and international aid can limit the capabilities of a country’s citizens to participate meaningfully in the choice of its policies and institutions. The Spring 2003 issue of Human Rights Dialogue advocates and practitioners explore how the framework of human rights can more effectively address the challenges of a globalizing world.
Introduction: Making Human Rights Work in a Globalizing World
The contributions to this issue of Human Rights Dialogue make clear that our understanding of human rights obligations must continue to evolve, adapting to the existing and changing needs of groups that are struggling to achieve social justice.
Building Global Solidarity
Ryan discusses how increased global economic integration has led American unions to build stronger links with workers worldwide. While collaboration can be difficult, he shows why the Solidarity Center’s work in Cambodia has been particularly successful.
Cooperation and Conflict
Acknowledging that the international anti-sweatshop movement has been effective in achieving higher labor standards for workers in the South, Carolina Quinteros contends that transnational alliances are a mixed bag for activists working at the local level.
Winning the Water War
Olivera and Viaña recount how Bolivians mobilized a successful campaign to overturn the government’s decision to privatize their local water system.
Privatization and Socioeconomic Rights
In response to the recent efforts to privatize basic services in South Africa, Chirwa argues that companies are obliged to uphold the economic and social rights enshrined in the South African Constitution.
Argentina Santacruz and Juana Sotomayor illustrate the different ways that their organization is attempting to hold the Ecuadorian government accountable for undermining economic and social rights by devoting much of the country’s resources to debt repayment.
Monitoring International Financial Institutions: An Interview with Flavia Barros
In an interview with Dialogue, Flavia Barros discusses her work with the network of social organizations in Brazil that has been monitoring projects funded by international financial institutions.
Justin VanFleet argues that the international intellectual property regime threatens the rights of indigenous knowledge holders. He describes an innovative approach to this problem—creating databases that document traditional knowledge for patent offices.
Using the so-called Global Gag Rule as a case study, Marianne Mollmann argues that donor countries often undermine human rights in developing countries through the restrictions they place on aid.
Holding Investors to Account
Kate Geary and Nicholas Hildyard describe how activists in the United Kingdom and Turkey mobilized to stop construction of the Ilisu Dam, a project that was funded by the export credit agencies of nine different countries.
Mining for the People
After a brutal war funded by the trade of diamonds, Brima maintains that public participation in the diamond mining sector is crucial to peaceful long-term development in Sierra Leone. Crossin critiques the international diamond certification process that seeks to eliminate conflict diamonds.
Beyond Reports and Promises
The International Labor Rights Fund has formed partnerships with local activists to use the U.S. court system to hold multinational corporations accountable for human rights violations abroad, and unions have confronted UNOCAL in Burma and Coca Cola in Columbia.
Monitoring Development Projects
Unmonitored development projects can lead to unfettered natural resource exploitation, ignoring the fact that indigenous peoples’ communal lands are the sources of their livelihoods and are crucial to their identities.
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