WP2. Users’ trajectories in human rights law (UAntwerp, ULB)

Work package 2 concerns mostly empirical research on how rights holders navigate through the complex architecture of human rights law. It includes the development of an adequate methodology, as well as five case studies. Three case studies will examine how urban and rural poor communities in the Global South have used human rights in order to protect themselves from perceived threats to their human dignity. They will be carried out in India, the DRC and China, in close cooperation with institutional partners in the countries concerned. In the fourth case study, the functioning of the Human Rights Council is analysed from a users’ perspective. The fifth case study will examine the human rights trajectories of foreigners in Europe in a migratory context.

  1. Developing a methodology (UAntwerp)

    Team 
    Project 

    From 2007 onwards, the UAntwerp partner has run an international research project on Localising Human Rights. The main purpose has been to study whether human rights as globally defined offer real protection when disadvantaged groups invoke them at the local level in an attempt to improve their living conditions. Preliminary results on the theory of the project were recently published (De Feyter, Parmentier, Timmerman and Ulrich 2011). On that basis, a methodological paper will be produced for the analysis of users’ trajectories in human rights. Such a methodology will by necessity need to be interdisciplinary, i.e. combine elements of the social sciences, political science, and law.

  2. UNICEF’s sanitised villages project in the Bas-Congo (UAntwerp)

    Project 

    The Democratic Republic of the Congo is implementing a 'sanitised villages' programme, which is supported by UNICEF. The programme aims at improving the living conditions in the targeted villages, thus ameliorating hygiene and the environment as well as access to drinking water and suitable toilets. UNICEF’s interventions are explicitly rights-based. The process of identifying villages selected for the project is a tricky one, and so is ensuring sustainability. The research will focus on the rural communities in the area (some of which have received UNICEF funding, and others not): what is the level of human rights awareness of these communities; is their perception of human rights similar to that of UNICEF; have they taken action to secure better human rights services from the donor and the international community as whole, and also from the Congolese state; and has the experience of using the strategy in the Bas-Congo made any difference to UNICEF’s own understanding of the right to water, health and education.

  3. Right to water for the urban poor in New Delhi (UAntwerp)

    Team 
    Project 

    For many poor communities in New Delhi, the access to safe drinking water is under threat, or not guaranteed. This water crisis is reinforced by the impact of climate change and the privatization plans of the Delhi Jal Board – the agency responsible for supplying potable drinking water in Delhi. The research will examine whether and how the urban poor are invoking human rights to defend their access to water, identify which human rights strategies were used, whether the urban poor’s understanding of human rights coincides with the Indian constitution and international law, whether some of the claims were accommodated, and whether claimants were able to mobilize international support through the use of global human rights language.

  4. Right to education of rural-urban migrants in Chongqing, China (UAntwerp)

    Team 

    Promoter: Prof. Koen De Feyter
    Coordination: Dr. Jingrong Chen and Dr. Ellen Desmet
    Research: Darren Jiang

    Project 

    Under various human rights treaties, China is obliged to provide equal opportunity to quality education. Since 2002, the responsibility for compulsory education has been decentralized, namely to the county government of the place of registered domicile of the household to which the children belong. This creates problems for households that migrate from rural to official areas without official registering in the city, the latter being inhibited by costly and cumbersome procedures. The research will investigate the impact of the right to education and the prohibition of discrimination on the access and quality of education of children belonging to households that have migrated to Chongqing city from rural areas. It will examine which threats are identified by the households to accessing quality education, whether claims are formulated based on the right to education, what actions are undertaken by the rights holders, whether they organize and establish links with other groups, and how local authorities, the wider community and the media respond to these actions.

  5. The Human Rights Council from below (UAntwerp)

    Team 
    Project 

    A fourth case study focuses on the United Nations Human Rights Council, with a twofold objective: (i) to map the existing channels through which local communities can get access to the Human Rights Council; and (ii) to investigate whether such input from below influences the normative work and/or functioning of the Council. First, the research will outline the various possibilities for individuals and groups of individuals to gain access to the Human Rights Council. More in particular the research will analyse the different channels through which communities can function either as 'agenda-setters' or also as 'norm-setters' by participating in law-making processes. Then, the research will focus on a particular issue which seems to have been successful in influencing the Human Rights Council's actions. Such analysis will allow us to identify some of the factors that have facilitated or proven important for the road up to the Human Rights Council. While careful to generalise the conclusions further, the research will at a minimum map the opportunities and challenges for local communities once pursuing access to the international human rights machinery.

  6. Foreigners in the labyrinth of human rights (ULB)

    Project 

    The ULB partner will examine the human rights trajectories of foreigners in Europe in a migratory context. The case study will undertake a detailed analysis of the jurisdictional process of these vulnerable human rights users and of their mobilization of the fragmented set of human rights sources and mechanisms at the European and global levels. It will allow for both the identification of good practices and the analysis of obstacles these actors encounter in pursuit of justice through the human rights labyrinth.