Ethnicity and Indigenous Rights

I would like to share another publication which is written in the context of my research project the negotiation of the right to food. The article is titled “The Limit of Narratives: Ethnicity and Indigenous Rights in Papua, Indonesia” published in the journal International Journal on Minority and Group Rights.

Here is the abstract:

As in many countries in Asia, the concept “indigenous” is a highly contested term in Indonesia. The government is of the opinion that Indonesia is a nation that has no indigenous peoples, or that all Indonesians are equally indigenous. The article aims to analyse the role and the paradox of using ethnic narratives, i.e. distinct social, economic or political systems, as well as language, culture and beliefs as their material and political basis, in the articulation of indigenous rights. Upon discussing a case study from Papua, Indonesia, it is observed that the use of ethnic narratives does create opportunity structures necessary for the struggles of indigenous rights. However, the salience of these endeavours is shaped by how these groups, their autonomy and marginalisation are positioned in the wider context of development, sovereignty and territoriality, which make them also dependent on the design and orientation of the state.

Development Hazard

In this article I revisit the concept of development hazard, which was the core of my doctoral research defended in 2009. Some new insights are included to argue for employing two main principles – fair distribution of benefits and popular participation, contained in the Declaration on the Right to Development. This article is published as open access in the Chinese Journal of Good Governance, and can be downloaded here.

The abstract reads:

It is common to criticize the right to development as a confusing compilation of ideas that brings into question its progressive realisation. This article concentrates precisely on this deferring situation. However, rather than scrutinizing the reasons of failures, it aims to explore a violation-based approach to the right to development in its connection as an instrument to address development hazards. The analysis focuses on two aspects of the right to development, firstly, the entitlement to fair distribution of benefits, as the basic argument to the obligation not to cause any harm in development, and secondly, the entitlement to participation, as an instrument to prevent and combat development hazards.

The Global South

The latest issue of the Third Quarterly is dedicated to examine a phenomenon called: the Global South. This special edition is currently free to download and divided into three themes: Ideas and shifting power relations, International peace and security, Human rights and development. As stated in the introduction, the focus of this volume is about ‘then’ and ‘now’. The nine individual articles contribute towards improving our understanding and bridge-building in different ways – sometimes by making the differences clearer, sometimes by probing how we could conceivably move beyond them, sometimes by calling into question the shibboleths of international cooperation.

Some of the chapters are:

Privatising Progressive Realisation

Social and economic rights are constructed in international politics with an awareness that the standards of and efforts towards their realisation may be different in one state and another. This leads to the conceptualisation of ‘progressive realisation’, adopted to give room for states to take steps to implement this set of rights based on their maximum available resource.  Progressive realisation should not be understood as an ‘escape hatch’ for states. Rather it signifies that advancement should and could always be made and that states should avoid regressive actions.

Although human rights lawyers and scholars continuously attempt to limit the emphasis on resources, it is a fact that the realisation of social and economic rights requires making the best use of scarce and finite resources. Enforcing a new set of legislations to ensure the protection of accessibility of health care does improve the promotion and protection of right to health. The same goes for the blaming and shaming by human rights activism at national and international politics. However, to provide available vaccinations or preventive measures to combat infant mortality requires investments in facilities and infrastructures.

Here one needs to continue reflecting on the question how to improve the performance of the state obligation to fulfil. Considerations towards private investments have long been made. The argument is posited that investment promotion activities can potentially augment the limited national income of many developing countries, thereby creating conditions that make more possible for the enjoyment of social economic rights. The idea is often perceived as controversial, especially because the essentially different nature of human rights and private enterprises. The latter is known for its profit-seeking and exploitative characteristics and for frequently being reported as human rights violators.

So what are the possible solutions for balancing the relationship between human rights and private investments? Many scholars have explored various ways, but I will only mention two here. First is that integrating private investment in the economic calculations for the realisation of social and economic rights requires grappling with difficult normative and policy issues about resource constraints and trade-offs. This means delving into budgetary data analysis, which is not a typical area of human rights expertise yet the human rights movement is now mature enough to overcome this challenge. Second is to scrutinize the conditions under which the pursuit of foreign direct investment (FDI) can be deemed consistent with state obligation to fulfill socioeconomic rights, rather than risking the state obligation to protect.  Crucial here is to ensure the pre-existence of a set of institutions that sufficiently regulates the behavior of foreign businesses and a certain level of human capital and physical infrastructure conducive to knowledge and technology transfer.

Development Induced Displacement

The right to development as a human right implies a universal protection against development hazards. In the light of Thomas Pogge’s thesis on global justice, that implies a corresponding state obligation not to cause harm. The principle of fair distribution of benefits stipulated in the Declaration of the Right to Development is the normative basis for this interpretation.  Distinctive in the obligation not to cause harm is that it incorporates the idea of equity and in that regard it extends beyond state obligations asserted in the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.  Human rights violations in the light of the right to development occur when development projects cause significant harm for one group, or others benefit more.  Development induced displacement is a term normally used to describe such situations.

For instances when the construction of dams, transport infrastructures, or other mega projects lead to forced evictions and allocations of people and communities. This topic is being discussed in the most recent edition of ‘Development in Practice‘.