On Dec 31st the Guardian posted an article criticizing Human Rights Watch and similar organizations for loosing their way.
According to Stephen Kinzer, the promotion of ‘secondary’ human rights such as right to multiple political parties and a free press, detract institutions from focusing on primary human rights like access to water and education.
It’s a tough call. If one is not a local then transformational ideas may be imperialistic because they come from non-indigenous values.
At the same time in conflicts where both sides share the blame, Stephen sites Darfur, foreign support can cause agonizing stalemates in the same way humanitarian aid can make war ‘bearable’.
So what to do? Give up on humanitarian aid and human rights?
How about we:
1 – Look at the work from the perspective of longer-term country engagements. Some aid is planned for in and out engagements, what if it was planned for in and transition?
2 – Rethink what impact means so there is the flexibility to pull out or change ones focus based on the complexity of the situation.