Comparative cross-national analysis of implementation of natural resource rights

Project: Research project

Description

Overview: The NSF project upon which this supplement will be based explores the effectiveness of legal, institutional, and political mechanisms by which advocates attempt to translate social rights norms into practices. It integrates the literatures on human rights, law, sustainability, and urban water governance. We build on our previous work by analyzing the mechanisms, actors, and pathways (MAPs) by which rights and sustainability objectives might be fulfilled. Our cases concern water and sanitation in three urban areas of the Global South: So Paulo, Brazil; Delhi, India; and Johannesburg, South Africa. Our objectives are to evaluate various mechanisms for translating human rights and environmental norms to practices for water and sanitation; to analyze how well similar mechanisms operate across research sites and sectors; to document and evaluate the synergies, complementarities, and/or contradictions when multiple mechanisms are in operation; to evaluate the role of state and non-state actors in promoting (or failing to promote) social rights; to identify and comparatively analyze pathways toward rights realization; and to identify configurations of mechanisms and pathways that, overall, seem most clearly associated with effective norm translation. We employ multiple methods: comparative-historical analysis, interviews, and simple quantitative analysis. We seek to situate legal mechanisms within the context of wider socio-political factors and ecological realities in order to understand the realization of a key social right -- the right to water and sanitation.

Intellectual merit: This research evaluates legal accountability to water as a human right, simultaneously addressing pressing questions regarding sustainability. To date, scholarly approaches to human rights and sustainability have remained largely separate, despite the human dimensions of sustainability and the resource dimensions of economic and social rights. Bringing together human rights, state obligations, and sustainability simultaneously addresses several interconnected threads in the fabric of public policy. This project will allow mutual enrichment of the law and society and human rights literatures (which provide insights into mechanisms and processes of social transformation), and the sustainability literature (which deals with complexity and socio-ecological resilience). Not only will it contribute to theoretical advances in these fields, but also it will pinpoint practical strategies for making social rights a reality in places where poverty, exclusion, and environmental degradation are particularly pressing concerns.

Broader impacts: This project will interest those seeking to promote progressive social change through law and rights, particularly as they pertain to water governance. Water and sewage services fundamentally affect public health, social equity, and the environment. Water scarcity and climate change are severe challenges that are likely to worsen before they improve in stressed urban areas of the Global South. By studying the processes of rights realization in three such settings, we seek to broaden the impact of our research. As citizens and advocates turn more and more to judges to force states to comply with their legal and moral obligations, evaluation of law as a mechanism for social transformation--alone or in conjunction with non-legal mechanisms--becomes increasingly important. By determining whether or not citizens and advocates within these urban areas are mobilizing to gain rights and protections, which strategies are most promising, and whether their efforts are ultimately realized, we seek to uncover pathways to more sustainable and just cities.

Description

REG SUPPLEMENT REQUEST: Description of purposed activity (2-3 pages) The International Human Dimensions Programme (IHDP) was established in 1996 to address critical gaps and provide leadership in international social science research related to global environmental change (UNU-IHDP 2012, About Us). The work of the IHDP is grounded in the assertion that to understand what steps society must take to address global environmental change, we must first assess and understand what societies require to ensure their wellbeingand what they perceive as their needs based on beliefs and values (UNU-IHDP 2012, Mobilizing the Social Sciences). Such beliefs and values are intimately tied to the pyschosocial and cultural identities, and experiences of individuals and communities within larger socioecological systems. Taking up the call of the IHDP, this research builds upon the goals of two of the IHDPs core programs: Global Environmental Change and Human Security (GECHS), and Urbanizations and Global Environmental Change (UGEC). As such, it aims to contribute to the growing, but still limited work on the psychosocial and cultural human dimensions of global environmental change in urban regions (Swim et al. 2011, UGEC 2013). As an exploratory project, this study will set the stage for more intensive future research. The objective guiding this initial project is to assess the efficacy and impact of human rights education (i.e. consciousness-raising) as a mechanism for building capacities of individuals and communities to combat global environmental change. In the process, it considers the ways in which a human rights perspective may also come into conflict with efforts to address ecological degradation and thus impede adaptive or transformative responses. By employing a human security framework (OBrien 2006; OBrien et al. 2009; Redclift et al. 2011), the study proposes to examine three key factors that influence adaptive and transformative capacity: 1) human perceptions (i.e. underlying values, worldviews and cognitions that shape and are shaped by ethics, knowledge, attitudes of risk, and cultural representations of surrounding environments) (Adger et al. 2009); 2) human agency (i.e. potential, willingness, and ability to take action) (Brown and Westaway 2011); and 3) power (i.e. the capacity to effect outcomes by mobilizing, controlling, or deploying different resources) (Avelino and Rotmans 2009, p.550). The investigator will consider how these factors are impacted by processes of empowerment and leadership development among youth as facilitated through human rights education programs in Johannesburg, South Africa. Johannesburg is a rapidly expanding urban center in the global south afflicted with inequality, and human rights challenges that further exacerbate and are reinforced by increasing vulnerability to global environmental change (e.g. water or food insecurity compounded by extreme weather events such as droughts and flooding) (Landau 2007, While and Whitehead 2013). Issues such as poverty, weak institutional capacity, poor infrastructure, insufficient or unequal distribution of resources, lack of access to knowledge, skills or social networks, and discriminatory practices stemming from xenophobia have resulted in more marginalized populations (e.g. poor immigrants) disproportionately experiencing the negative impacts of global environmental change (Landau 2007). This, coupled with South Africas historical legacy of apartheid and its sociocultural and political emphasis on human rights as an outward demonstration of its ability to move beyond such a legacy, makes Johannesburg a particularly relevant location for examining human dimensions of global environmental change (Keet and Carrim 2006). With more than half (64%) of South Africas population predicted to be dwelling in urban areas by 2030 (South African Cities Network, SACN, 2004), this study responds to a growing imperative for more urban-based research addressing human dimensions of global environmental change (Holgate 2007, Rees et al. 2008; Brown et al. 2009; Evans 2002; While and Whitehead 2013, UGEC 2013). A human security framework, embedded in a broader social justice perspective, provides the critical theory lens necessary for intentionally integrating concepts of power, agency, justice and wellbeing (OBrien 2006; OBrien et al. 2009). In the context of environmental change, OBrien (2006) defines human security as the condition when and where individuals and communities have the options necessary to end, mitigate, or adapt to risks to their human, environmental, and social rights; have the capacity and freedom to exercise these options; and actively participate in attaining these options (p.1). A human security framework prioritizes building the capacities of people within communities to respond to change, whether by reducing vulnerability or by challenging the drivers of environmental change, including structural inequality and human rights abuses (OBrien 2006, p.1). A key component of a human security framework is the recognition that individual and communal perceptions of risk and vulnerability to environmental changefactors heavily shaped by dominating social and cultural normscan either build or impede capacities for adaptation or transformation (Redclift et al. 2011; Adger et al. 2009). To assess this, we must consider how individual and communal ethics (how and what we value), knowledge (how and what we know), attitudes toward risk (how and what we perceive) and culture (how and why we live) either act as sources of power and agency or as barriers to adaptive or transformative decision-making and action (Adger et al. 2009, p.338). The underlying hypothesis driving this study is that human rights consciousness-raising (through human rights education programs) can serve as an important catalyst for adaptive or transformative decision-making and action at both the individual and communal levels. It does this by fostering leadership and empowering participants to enact change through norm-activation (Weber and Stern 2011) and what Freire (1970, 1993, 2005) refers to as critical consciousness or conscientization. Normactivation is directly tied to personal values and worldviews such as egalitarianism or collectivism that are heavily conditioned by sociocultural, political and ecological factors. As Weber and Stern (2011) describe, people experience a sense of obligation to act (a personal moral norm) as they become more attuned to how their own actions or inactions directly and indirectly impact the wellbeing of others and the socioecological systems on which humans depend (Weber and Stern 2011, p.320). Within this norm activation process, individual and communal acknowledgement of personal and collective responsibility creates the necessary space for environmental concerns to manifest. Conscientization is a dialogical process of knowing, seeing, and engaging with our internal and external realities (Freire 1970, 1993, 2005). By facilitating critical awareness (Freire Institute 2013, Concepts used by Paulo Freire.), human rights education becomes the practice of freedom, whereby people reflect on, question and challenge injustices through deliberate transformative decision-making and action (Freire 2005, p.35). This study will provide the foundation for determining if and how human rights education programs function as tools for norm-activation and conscientization.

Description

This project explores the effectiveness of legal, institutional, and political mechanisms by which advocates attempt to translate social rights norms into practices. It integrates law and society literature with scholarship on human rights, sustainability, and urban water governance. We build on our previous work by analyzing the mechanisms, actors, and pathways (MAPs) by which human rights and sustainability objectives might be fulfilled. Our cases concern water and sanitation sectors of three rapidly urbanizing areas of the Global South: So Paulo, Brazil; Delhi, India; and Johannesburg, South Africa. Our objectives are to document and evaluate the role of legal and non-legal mechanisms in translating human rights and environmental norms to practices for water and sanitation; to analyze how well similar mechanisms operate across research sites and sectors; to document and evaluate the synergies, complementarities, and/or contradictions when multiple mechanisms are in operation; to evaluate the role of state and non-state actors in promoting (or failing to promote) social rights; to identify and comparatively analyze pathways toward rights realization; and to identify configurations of mechanisms and pathways that, overall, seem most clearly associated with effective norm translation. We employ multiple methods: comparative-historical analysis, interviews, and simple quantitative analysis. We seek to situate legal mechanisms within the context of wider socio-political factors and ecological realities in order to understand the realization of a key social right -- the right to water and sanitation. Intellectual merit: This research evaluates legal accountability to water as a human right, simultaneously addressing pressing questions regarding sustainability. To date, scholarly approaches to human rights and sustainability have remained largely separate, despite the human dimensions of sustainability and the resource dimensions of economic and social rights realization. By bringing together human rights, state obligations, and sustainability, we simultaneously address several interconnected threads in the fabric of public policy. This project will allow mutual enrichment of the law and society and human rights literatures (which provide insights into mechanisms and processes of social transformation), and the sustainability literature (which deals with complexity and socio-ecological resilience). Not only will it contribute to theoretical advances in these fields, but also it will pinpoint practical strategies for making social rights a reality in countries where poverty, exclusion, and environmental degradation are particularly pressing concerns. Broader impacts: This project will interest those seeking to promote progressive social change through law and rights, particularly as they pertain to water governance. Water and sewage services fundamentally affect public health, social equity, and the environment. Water scarcity and climate change are severe challenges that are likely to worsen before they improve in megacities of the Global South. By studying the processes of rights realization in three such settings, we seek to broaden the impact of our research. As citizens and advocates turn more and more to judges to force states to comply with their legal and moral obligations, evaluation of law as a mechanism for social transformation--alone or in conjunction with nonlegal mechanisms--becomes increasingly important. By determining whether or not citizens and advocates within these urban areas are mobilizing to gain rights and protections, which strategies are most promising, and whether their efforts are ultimately realized, we seek to uncover pathways to more sustainable and just cities. This project will expand international research networks through collaboration, information exchange, and dissemination of data and results. It will also foster curricular development; expose students to crossnational research; train students in concept development, coding, and multi-method analysis; and expand study abroad activities. Findings will be made available to all respondents, as well as to international development agencies and human rights advocates, via a web portal created for this purpose and in-country presentations. Further dissemination will occur through publications, panels, and collaboration and discussion among experts and students from both sustainability and human rights fields, as well as an eventual book on the complexity of social rights realization from a cross-national perspective.
StatusFinished
Effective start/end date9/1/138/31/17

Funding

  • National Science Foundation (NSF): $317,902.00

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natural resources
human rights
social rights
sustainability
water
human security
Law
obligation
urban area
political factors
governance
activation
citizen
consciousness
urbanization
vulnerability
sewage
historical analysis
Values
poverty