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New Rights Advocacy

Changing Strategies of Development and Human Rights NGOs

Publication Year: 2008

After World War II dozens of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) emerged on the global scene, committed to improving the lives of the world's most vulnerable people. Some focused on protecting human rights; some were dedicated to development, aimed at satisfying basic economic needs. Both approaches had distinctive methods, missions, and emphases. In the 1980s and 90s, however, the dividing line began to blur. In the first book to track the growing intersection and even overlap of human rights and development NGOs, Paul Nelson and Ellen Dorsey introduce a concept they call "new rights advocacy." New rights advocacy has at its core three main trends: the embrace of human rights-based approaches by influential development NGOs, the adoption of active economic and social rights agendas by major international human rights NGOs, and the surge of work on economic and social policy through a human rights lens by specialized human rights NGOs and social movement campaigns. Nelson and Dorsey draw on rich case studies of internationally well-known individual NGOs such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Oxfam, CARE, ActionAid, and Save the Children, and employ perspectives from fields of human rights, international relations, the sociology of social movements and of complex organizations, and development theory, in order to better understand the changes occurring within NGOs. In questioning current trends using new theoretical frameworks, this book breaks new ground in the evolution of human rights-development interaction. The way in which NGOs are reinventing themselves has great potential for success—or possibly failure—and profound implications for a world in which the enormous gap between the wealthiest and poorest poses a persistent challenge to both development and human rights.

Published by: Georgetown University Press


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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii

This book has grown out of six years of discussion, research, conversations, consultancies, and classes, and it is not easy to assign credit (or blame) and acknowledge contributions adequately. Some of the present chapters were presented and discussed in earlier form, in panels...

List of Abbreviations and Acronyms

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pp. ix-x

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pp. 1-12

...This book probes the extent, the significance, the limitations, and the interactions among initiatives such as these. These and the other organizations and movements profiled in this book share two central features: a concern for poverty and inequality and their worst symptoms...

1 New Rights Advocacy

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Organizational Fields and the Division of Human Rights and Development

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pp. 15-19

The two new organizational fields grew along separate tracks, and the clear division of institutions, professional skills, and organizational cultures runs through the UN system, foreign affairs and international development agencies of most of the bilateral aid donors, and profoundly through the world of NGOs. ...

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The New Rights Advocacy

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pp. 19-22

We define the new rights advocacy as advocacy on social, economic, or development policy, at local, national, or international levels, which makes explicit reference to internationally recognized human rights standards. It features explicit appeals to these standards, it promotes both civil and political human rights and economic and social human rights, and it targets a broad range of actors....

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International System Change and the NGO Sectors

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pp. 22-25

In the past twenty years, there has been an explosion of research and analysis of NGOs and transnational social movements. The surge of organizing and activity has been attributed to failures of traditional channels of political participation, to discredited ideologies of liberalism and Marxism, to new technologies, and to the logic of global governance...

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Organizations, Their Environments, and Power

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pp. 26-29

What changes in the global environment are driving the convergence of human rights and development organizations? Although the factors vary somewhat for the two sectors, as we will see below, the move is motivated by changes at both the global and local levels that create incentives for development NGOs to move toward human...

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The Emergence of NGO Cooperation in the 1980s and 1990s

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pp. 29-32

Economic globalization, social movement pressure, changes in official aid, and conflict-related humanitarian crises provide the framework for understanding why the development–human rights convergence began to grow in the 1990s. ...

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Implications of the New Rights Advocacy

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pp. 32-42

These trends in human rights and development are significant in themselves, but they have broader implications for larger theoretical and policy issues regarding NGOs as political and strategic actors; power, social movements, and the nature of human rights; and the changing nature of accountability for human rights. ...

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Tracking the Origins

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pp. 42-43

As we turn in chapters 2 and 3 to the two fields—first human rights, then development—we investigate whether and how international NGOs are adopting new strategic postures and methods for advancing human rights and development, and what effects these changes have on the organizations and the broader fields. ...

2 Transforming the Human Rights Movement: Human Rights NGOs Embrace ESC Rights

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The Emerging Movement for ESC Rights

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pp. 45-47

Over the past decade, advocacy for economic and social rights has grown more widespread, more often internationally sanctioned, and at times more effective. This advocacy, wrapped within the internationally recognized standards of human rights, is expanding as organizations promoting economic and social policies...

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Traditional International Human Rights NGOs and ESC Rights

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pp. 47-70

The cold war dichotomy of civil and political versus social, economic, and cultural rights set the framework for future advocacy on human rights. Most recognized international human rights groups emerged in the West and reflected a bias toward civil and political rights. ...

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New NGOs and the Global Network for ESC Rights

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pp. 70-76

As the major international NGOs have moved slowly to develop substantial ESC rights agendas, new organizations and networks have been formed explicitly with an ESC framework. Dynamic and sometimes innovative approaches by networks of NGOs show the potential of ESC rights in fields such as corporate behavior...

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Debating ESC Rights Advocacy

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pp. 76-86

As partners in the global South continue to pressure the international human rights NGOs to expand their work on ESC rights, and as specialized ESC rights NGOs and grassroots campaigns on economic and social policies within a human rights framework continue to proliferate, the debate on how, how far, and how effective international NGOs...

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Impact of the New Movement for ESC Rights

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pp. 86-88

For the human rights field, the significance of these trends is twofold. First, collaboration with development and environmental NGOs offers a way to address economic globalization issues through human rights campaigning, in collaboration with NGOs that have been leading current mobilizations. ...

3 NGOs and the Development Industry: Toward a Rights-Based Approach?

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pp. 89-91

The development field is at a pivotal juncture. As development assistance became increasingly directed by post–cold war democracy promotion, market-based free trade and investment policies, and humanitarian crises and antiterrorist battles on several fronts, aid practitioners have sought out initiatives...

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Organizations, Politics, and the Meaning of Rights-Based Approaches

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pp. 91-95

Since the mid-1990s, human rights–based approaches have been among the most discussed movements in development. Donors such as the UNDP and UNICEF, Swedish Sida and British DFID, and NGOs and networks of NGOs such as Save the Children, CARE, ActionAid, and Oxfam have declared themselves as rights-based agencies. ...

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The Development Field and the Call for Rights-Based Approaches

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pp. 95-99

To understand how human rights–based approaches have been received among development agencies, one needs to recall the history of shifting and evolving fashions in the field. Sixty years of fads and fashions, new theories, technologies, and slogans have disappointed observers, participants, and “beneficiaries,”...

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Crisis of Development, Promise of Human Rights

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pp. 99-104

By the late 1990s, the development aid enterprise faced a crisis both of substance and of image, felt most acutely by leading NGOs and the donors most concerned with social welfare outcomes. Four critical issues capture the dimensions of the crisis: the continuing growth...

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Development Agencies and the Tentative Embrace of Rights-Based Development

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pp. 104-115

To assess how development agencies are implementing rights-based approaches, we have created a three-part typology of the methods being employed to implement rights-based approaches. The typology emphasizes three characteristics of the international NGO’s implementation...

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Human Rights and the Millennium Development Goals

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pp. 116-119

Launched in 2000, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) sparked an unusual show of united purpose among official donors.2 The eight goals with eighteen standards and forty-eight benchmarks and indicators call for reductions in poverty, malnutrition, illiteracy, child mortality...

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Durability and Limits, Constraints and Resistance

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pp. 119-123

Is this ambivalence within the United Nations a symptom of a general lack of substantive change by the official and nongovernmental agencies embracing human rights–based development? Skeptics have argued that the rush to adopt rights-based approaches is an expression of donors’ continuing effort to win greater legitimacy...

4 Alliances and Hybrids

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Local and Global Cooperation Sets the Stage, 1980s–1990s

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pp. 127-136

The local and global interactions around development projects and UN-sponsored global conferences produced three broad sets of results for environmental, development, and human rights advocates. Activists in each sector began to learn from the impact of the strategies employed in the others...

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Converging Agendas, New Organizations, Shared Initiatives, Methods, and Identities

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pp. 136-155

A flood of new initiatives and newly founded organizations on the human rights–development frontier are the most visible manifestations of the convergence that accelerated in the 1990s. Less readily observable, but equally important, are the convergence of agendas...

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Creating Organizational Hybrids

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pp. 155-162

A small number of organizations combine within them characteristics of both development and human rights NGOs. These NGOs carry out activities typical of both types, participate in networks and alliances of both human rights and development organizations, and use methods drawn from both fields. ...

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Alliances, Hybrids, and NGO Politics

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pp. 162-164

Issue alliances, convergent advocacy campaigns, and hybrid NGOs are shifting the focus of the two fields. Leading NGOs in each sector—Oxfam, CARE, ActionAid, Amnesty, Human Rights First, OMCT, and others—are finding ways to broaden and deepen their sectorcrossing agendas and methods...

5 Human Rights and Development: What Is New? Will It Last?

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What Is New?

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pp. 168-176

The new rights advocacy borrows methods drawn from the experience of civil and political rights advocacy, and many of its participants are veterans of advocacy on social policy, human rights, and environmental issues over two decades or more. But while there is important continuity in the story of human rights...

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Are the Sectors Converging?

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pp. 176-178

In chapter 1 we hypothesized that international systems changes were producing changes in NGOs’ operating environment powerful enough to force strategic choices that could reorient not only single organizations, but the sectors. We have referred occasionally to a human rights–development “convergence,”...

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pp. 178-181

Are the trends detailed here lasting, durable changes to the development and human rights fields, or are they fads, fashions that rise for a decade and recede into memory or are absorbed into a kind of global business as usual? Predicting the future is risky business, and we are wary of extending our analysis into the unknown. ...

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Impact on Outcomes

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pp. 181-184

After forty years of relative quiet from the mainstream international human rights NGOs on economic and social issues, and decades of near-silence from the development sector on the subject of economic and social rights standards, it is still early to reach meaningful conclusions about the bottom line...


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pp. 185-205


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pp. 207-222

E-ISBN-13: 9781589013810
E-ISBN-10: 1589013816
Print-ISBN-13: 9781589012042
Print-ISBN-10: 1589012046

Page Count: 232
Publication Year: 2008