Importance of Accountability in the Right Based Approach to Human Rights

Human rights, originating from moral reasoning and social advocacy (A. Sen) of a society, build the framework of socially sanctioned norms and eventual legal structure to protect individual rights. In the backdrops of various cultures, I find the evolution of global consensus on human rights a long, flexible, and politically powered process. The lack of common willingness to effectively implement human rights makes the concept of “accountability” of states, public and private institutions, and even of human rights and development NGOs in actively pursuing right based approach (RBA) of human rights, very fluid. The Human Rights Council of Australia considers accountability as a key to the protection and promotion of human rights (Uvin, 131); however, one of the prominent criticisms on human rights comes on its ‘political’ nature (Mary Robinson, 32)  and politically geared objectives I think, contradicts transparent accountability and can only be improved but is difficult to perfect. Good education and healthcare can be considered as basic rights in any society, but it is difficult and to a certain extent, makes it politically undesirable to hold governments of developing and under-developed countries accountable for their lack of provision of these basic human rights. Sometimes the lack of legal infrastructure hinders accountability. Peter Uvin (Human Rights and Development, 132) talks about the notion of justiciability, the capacity to adjudicate a claim before a court of law, and goes on to explain that economic, political, and cultural (ESC) rights are justiciable but may not happen in practice because in weak systems parties affected are too poor or powerless. The effective way of promoting accountability lies within the framework of the morals of a society i.e. by promoting shared expectations and socially acceptable discourse (Uvin, 134) and to weave a common moral structure across the globe may not be that easy. Thomas Pogge (World Poverty and Human Rights, 65) extends the notion of the government to anyone with authority including the lowest and smallest agencies and officials, in promoting accountability against human rights violations at every level, but in reality, these actors are hardly held accountable in human rights violations. For example, the constitution of Pakistan provides protection to minority rights at both governmental and private levels; however, constant violations of such human rights, for instance, the right to worship etc., can be seen in that country and hardly ever has the state been held accountable for its violation of human rights.

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