Governance International Law Social Movement

How have human rights reports been responded?

One of the observed tasks of human rights NGOs in protecting and promoting socio-economic rights is executed by writing and submitting reports to international human rights regimes, such as the United Nations.  It is generally perceived that states, as sovereign units, each representing a nation, occupy a unique position. While they have the primary obligation to carry out human rights obligations, they are also recognised as potential perpetrators, which in turn will be less likely to admit any negligences or violations.

Acknowledging the important position of states to realise human rights has crucially contributed to the establishment of the human rights regimes, something that is essential for invoking and exerting the influence of international human rights norms. However as resulted from another character of states, obviously, these regimes cannot merely rely on states to ensure that rights are enforced and realised. They need to turn to other actors for some possible explanations on states´ slothfulness and aversions in fulfilling their obligations. In this regard, we are talking about non-governmental organisations.

Writing reports is part of the chores NGOs need to do to stay in the loop. In cooperation with other NGOs or possibly other social organisations, experiences and grievances are collected. Field research, trainings, interviews etcetera are the common ways of collecting such information. In the reports these experiences and grievances are translated using the human rights language, in order to identify violations and states’ failures in meeting their obligations.

While this in itself is a strenuous effort, one might wonder how have human rights reports been responded? An answer to this question may be twofold, at least. One that is connecting reports to the actual actions taken by the organisations to whom these reports are submitted. Here one is talking about some acts of intervention. The second revolves around assessments regarding the broader impacts of these reports in the wider societal connext that includes institutional, political, cultural aspects, and so on, particularly concerning changes at the level of discourses.

I am particularly interested in the later. Recently the Forest People Programme Indonesia renewed their appeal to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, by submitting a new report requesting its consideration of the situation of the Malind and other indigenous peoples of Merauke, Indonesia. Their last report was positively responded by the Committee who expressed its concerns on the negative impacts agricultural modernisation projects in Merauke have on the livelihood of the Malind and requested to be further informed on the measures taken by the Government of Indonesia in this regard.

I had the pleasure to meet the NGOs involved in this report during my field research two years ago and I am really looking forward to see how this report will be responded.



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