We cannot verify your location
Browse Book and Journal Content on Project MUSE

Freedom from Poverty

NGOs and Human Rights Praxis

By Daniel P.L. Chong

Publication Year: 2010

Human rights advocacy in the West is changing. Before the turn of the century, access to goods such as food, housing, and health care—while essential to human survival—were deemed outside of the human rights sphere. Traditional human rights institutions focused on rights in the political arena that could be defended through legal systems.

In Freedom from Poverty, Daniel P. L. Chong examines how today's nongovernmental organizations are modifying human rights practices and reshaping the political landscape by taking up the cause of subsistence rights. This book outlines how three types of NGOs—human rights, social justice, and humanitarian organizations—are breaking down barriers by incorporating access to economic and social goods into national laws and advancing subsistence rights through nonjuridical means. These NGOs are using rights not only as legal instruments but as moral and rhetorical implements to build social movements, shape political culture, and guide development work. Rights language is now invoked in churches, political campaigns, rock concerts, and organizational mission statements. Chong presents a social theory of human rights to provide a framework for understanding these changes and defending the legitimacy of these rights.

Freedom from Poverty analyzes new trends in the evolution of human rights by combining constructivist and postpositivist legal approaches. This book provides valuable concepts to human rights practitioners, political scientists, antipoverty advocates, and leaders who are serious about ending widespread privation and disease.

Published by: University of Pennsylvania Press

Series: Pennsylvania Studies in Human Rights

Title Page

pdf iconDownload PDF (20.3 KB)

Copyright Page

pdf iconDownload PDF (29.2 KB)

Table of Contents

pdf iconDownload PDF (27.8 KB)
pp. vii

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (58.7 KB)
pp. ix-xi

The research for this book began with a set of simple questions. If basic needs such as food, housing, and health care were so central to human survival and dignity, why were they discredited for so long in the West? Why, after all these years, were nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) beginning to accept the validity of freedom from poverty as a basic human right? Does this new trend have the potential to change the practice of human rights and our approach to extreme poverty?

read more

Chapter 1. NGOs and Freedom from Poverty

pdf iconDownload PDF (129.4 KB)
pp. 1-16

Human rights advocacy in the West is changing. New issues are being promoted, which extend beyond the relatively narrow range of civil and political rights that nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) historically fought for. New organizations are joining in the fight, using concepts and methods not traditionally considered “human rights” advocacy.

read more

Chapter 2. A Social Theory of Human Rights

pdf iconDownload PDF (123.4 KB)
pp. 17-30

In Chapter 1, I briefly described the historical process whereby subsistence rights (and indeed, nearly all economic, social, and cultural rights) were assigned a secondary status within the Western human rights movement during the Cold War. I discussed the ideology behind separating human rights into two categories—that economic and social rights were inherently positive, expensive, and nonjusticiable...

read more

Chapter 3. Human Rights Organizations

pdf iconDownload PDF (272.6 KB)
pp. 31-70

The purpose of this chapter is to trace efforts in recent years by Western human rights organizations1 to redeem economic and social rights, particularly subsistence rights, from their decades-long status as the “poor stepsister” to civil and political rights.2 I will discuss the increasing adoption of subsistence rights by the human rights movement, ongoing resistance to subsistence rights,...

read more

Chapter 4. Social Justice Organizations

pdf iconDownload PDF (233.0 KB)
pp. 71-103

While the adoption of subsistence rights among traditional human rights organizations has been well publicized, the increasing incorporation of human rights rhetoric into the campaigns of social justice groups represents a quieter but equally significant trend.1 The importance of the social justice movement should not be surprising, as Neil Stammers argues, because...

read more

Chapter 5. Humanitarian Organizations

pdf iconDownload PDF (205.4 KB)
pp. 104-130

While social justice groups have adopted economic and social rights rather quietly, the incorporation of human rights into the work of Western humanitarian NGOs 1 over the past decade has arrived with much fanfare. The diverse and multifaceted trend among humanitarian NGOs has coalesced into a single label: the use of a “rights-based approach” to development work.

read more

Chapter 6. Using a Social Theory to Interpret NGO Efforts

pdf iconDownload PDF (110.7 KB)
pp. 131-142

This book seeks to explain the recent increase in Western NGOs’ work to achieve freedom from poverty, and to understand its meaning for human rights politics more broadly. Subsistence rights, as a subset of economic and social rights, had been delegitimized, opposed, or ignored within the West for decades, in large part due to a particular understanding of human rights that defined them as legal instruments protecting individuals against government interference.

Appendix: NGOs Working for Freedom from Poverty

pdf iconDownload PDF (118.7 KB)
pp. 159-157


pdf iconDownload PDF (256.4 KB)
pp. 159-196


pdf iconDownload PDF (138.5 KB)
pp. 197-212


pdf iconDownload PDF (61.5 KB)
pp. 213-216

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (40.3 KB)
pp. 217-218

I am deeply grateful for the years of support, challenge, and intellectual stimulation that I received at the School of International Service at American University. SIS, led by Dean Louis Goodman, richly deserves its reputation as one of the elite graduate schools in international relations in the world. The faculty and staff at SIS who contributed directly or indirectly to this work are too numerous to mention,...

E-ISBN-13: 9780812201604
Print-ISBN-13: 9780812242522

Page Count: 232
Publication Year: 2010

Series Title: Pennsylvania Studies in Human Rights