The Human Rights Accountability Challenge

The Human Dignity and Human Rights Caucus, a World Social Forum-related coalition of human rights and development organisations, has been organising human rights events in the framework of the World Social Forum since 2002. In 2008, the Forum will be held as a Global Day of Action in many different places around the world. At the same time, the human rights movement will be celebrating, in diverse ways, the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).

Combining both events, the Human Dignity and Human Rights Caucus is calling for proposals by 15 November 2007 to organise activities during January 2008 at local, national, regional and international levels. Proposed activities (including events, projects and initiatives) should focus on redressing accountability deficits in realising human rights – exploring innovative ways to improve Human Rights Accountability. Activities should support effective awareness, dialogue, research, action or advocacy to hold responsible actors to account for realising a pressing human rights issue or redressing violations committed. If the proposal describes a longer-term project, it must include a specific activity in January 2008.

A qualified international jury will choose the winning proposals. Several well-known human rights experts have already been approached and the composition of the jury will be published shortly. Winning entries will receive a subsidy of 75% of the costs involved in realising their proposals to a maximum as follows:

Local or national activities: € 5.000
Regional activities: € 7.500
International activities: € 10.000

HDHRC also will invite and sponsor a representative of the organization(s) presenting a winning entry to participate in a Human Rights Accountability Train to be organised in Davos on the opening day of the World Economic Forum. This will allow the initiative to reach international-level duty bearers and internationalize its message.

Focusing on Human Rights Accountability

Accountability always has been a key theme in the human rights discourse. Focusing on human rights accountability is especially important at this moment in history. Starting with the adoption of the UDHR in 1948, the basic framework of modern international human rights law has been articulated through a series of major international and regional human rights treaties. Although this legal framework for human rights is now well established, commitment to human rights promotion, protection and fulfilment seems to be on the wane. In particular, despite the fact that the majority of states have ratified and are legally bound to uphold their human rights commitments, implementation of those commitments remains outrageously inadequate.

Accountability however does not just refer to state obligations: the UDHR affirms that "every individual and every organ of society" bears the responsibility "to promote respect for these rights and progressive measures, national and international." Thus, while the State has primary responsibility to respect, protect and fulfil those rights codified in law, human rights accountability is shared by all parties concerned including international financial institutions, corporations, multilateral agencies, influential foreign governments, civil society organisations and even individuals. This is of particular importance today where non-State and inter-state actors wield such extraordinary political power and control over fundamental resources worldwide.

In 2008, the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we reaffirm that we are all somehow accountable to conduct ourselves consistent with human rights. Our challenge is to bring that theory closer to reality. That can be done, in part, by joining together to improve mechanisms and fortify actions that call primary duty bearers to account for their human rights obligations. We must also challenge our core assumptions about what models, strategies and tools will bring about the more just and equitable world we envision. We must develop and implement strategies for transforming the human rights struggles that stand between us and such a world, reaching out to all relevant actors. We must hold ourselves accountable for bringing about this change even while we continue to pressure our governments to fulfil their human rights responsibilities.

Guidelines for submission

Proposals should be addressed to the secretariat of the Caucus, Ms. Rosa Sánchez at no later than 15 November 2007. The secretariat is also available at the same address for queries and clarification. All proposals and other relevant information will be published on the Caucus’ webpage on the World Social Forum website:

To be considered, proposals must include the following details:
Description and location of the organisation(s)/group(s) proposing the activity
Issue(s) to be addressed
Need for the activity
Description of activity including location, audience and intended participants
Itemized budget for the activity

Winning proposals will be announced on 1 December 2007 to permit time for the winners to prepare their activities.

The following general rules will govern the contest:

1.The jury will assign one prize for each of three categories, striving for an adequate regional and thematic balance.

2.Only proposals originating from organised groups and entities will be considered.

3.Prizes will consist of 75% of the estimated cost of the activity, up to the maximum amounts described above (for which clear, itemized budgets must be presented).

4.A representative of each winning group will be invited and sponsored to participate in the Caucus’ global activities in Switzerland on January 2008.

5.The jury can decide on issues not covered and their decisions are final.

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