A Human Rights Agenda for Social Change
International discourse on human rights law has seldom explored the potential and promise of the international human rights regime to function as a tool to contribute to social justice, social stability and social change. The paper rests on the central thesis that human rights must always be considered as a means to an end and not an end in itself if it is to serve a meaningful purpose. Such a perspective ensures that human rights bring with it social resolve apart from being a mere anthropocentric phenomenon focusing on the individual in a vacuum. It advocates that human dignity be the ultimate goal in the promotion and protection of human rights in a manner that regards the individual as a unit of the society to which he or she belongs.
The paper begins by examining the role that human rights can play in securing a sustainable and durable peace particularly for nations emerging from the throes of conflict and fragility. It draws on the first and second generation human rights to construct a central thesis that is illustrated by specific examples of how a project for human rights protection and promotion can lead to social change through peace-building.
The second part of the paper delves into a third generation human right, namely the human right to development to discuss how the human right is currently being realized in different parts of the world with unfair consequences for the developed and developing world. It utilizes international development mechanisms to evaluate the extent to which the human right to development is being realized from which emerges the analysis that a significant gulf currently exists between the rhetoric and reality in the global realization of the right. This paper examines the reasons for the gap between rhetoric and reality and then moves on to determine strategies to reduce or indeed bridge this gap, which would in turn contribute to the realization of a full protection to the human right to development. Through the discussion it comes to light that the human right to development, if implemented as intended, can contribute in no limited measure towards achieving social change and stability at the global level.
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