3242  Far from undisputed role of NGOs and other international civil society actors

Room: C4.02


Chair: Maria Inês Gameiro | DINÂMIA’CET-IUL

Moara Crivelente | Faculty of Economics and Centre for Social Studies, University of Coimbra

Civil society participation and struggle at the UN Human Rights Council: Palestinan and Saharawis reach Geneva




In 1996, the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) finally established a “consultative relationship” between the UN and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Previous resolutions recognize the interaction’s relevance, and the existence of a standing committee on NGOs goes back to 1946. Attaining to a conception of “civil society” as society’s “third sector”, doors were open to representatives of rigorously structured organizations that comply with the liberal framework and, indirectly, with national legislations: regularization and recognition as an NGO that can apply for consultative status generally depends on that. But what if societal actors do not conform to their states’ rules or, as in various cases, struggle for their own state, often facing repression, persecution and censorship from states that colonize or occupy their homeland?
Drawing from an ongoing research and on the participant observation of the work of civil society actors from Palestine and Western Sahara in sessions of the UN Human Rights Council -- as part of their defense of their right to self-determination -- this paper tackles some of the procedures, form and the language required of them, and the ways that they find to navigate what often constitute grave challenges. It also ponders how these requirements add up to the broadly discussed professionalization of civil society under the liberal stamp of approval and, in these cases, how this trend is viewed and practiced/resisted by the actors themselves in their broader, national strategy. Challenges range from procedural and bureaucratic to political challenges, since the application for a consultative status that enable organizations to participate in the sessions, the access to funding, visas to Switzerland, where the Council is based, and other obstacles, until the knowledge of one of the languages spoken at the UN and of the juridical/institutional language accepted for dialogue. This part of the ongoing research aims to assess the obstacles that the actors with which research has managed to engage, in Geneva, had to face and conform with or contest. Finally, it analyzes how participation, professionalization and/or resistance to the framework develop within the actors’ broader strategy – the reason why they are there in the first place, accessing this privileged space for the continuation of their struggle through international law and human rights. 

Elena Maslovskaya | Sociological Institute of FCTAS Russian Academy of Sciences

Counteracting Illegal Violence: the Case of Russian Human Rights NGOs




The presentation focuses on the process of juridical professionalization of Russian human rights NGOs counteracting illegal violence by law enforcement and prison personnel. The theoretical base of the study is Pierre Bourdieu’s theory of the juridical field and other approaches of contemporary sociology of law. It is argued that organizational models used by human rights activists reflect the configuration and the dynamics of power relations both within and outside the juridical field in today’s Russia. Juridical professionalization of human rights NGOs is regarded as structured by unequal access to material resources and symbolic capital and dependent on continuous attempts to stigmatize their activities. The research results confirm the trend towards the formation of an alternative form of professionalization of human rights lawyers with the potential to change their juridical habitus and create a specific identity that combines elements of human rights activism and legal professionalism. The asymmetry of power relationships in the juridical field forces human rights lawyers to develop specific solutions for counteracting illegal violence in prison and law enforcement bodies. The paper analyses the peculiarities of interaction between human rights lawyers, victims and investigating authorities in cases of public inquiry of illegal violence. Specialized forms of juridical activity and tactical moves are singled out which are used by NGOs in their interaction with Russian and international courts. However, the current models of professional conduct within law enforcement agencies can be influenced only selectively and mostly at the local level. As a result even modest achievements in this sphere require constant and active work on the part of human rights NGOs. At the same time changes in Russian legislation strengthened the trend towards marginalization of these NGOs and further restrictions on their activities.

Danilo Vuković | University of Belgrade, Faculty of Law

Politics Banned, Informalism Strengthened: Transnational Actors and the Rule of Law in Contemporary Serbia and Cambodia




In peripheral and semi-peripheral settings, international development agencies are important actors in promotion of government accountability and the rule of law. Often, these activities take form of support to social accountability actions and mechanisms whereby civil society actors put pressure on politicians and public officials to become more accountable to the citizens for their actions and to respect the rule of law. In this presentation, I analyse these efforts in two diverse settings, peripheral neo-patrimonial Cambodia and semi-peripheral post-transitional Serbia. The emphasis is placed on the structure of these activities and some of their outcomes. I argue that these activities take a depoliticized approach since they focus on individuals, and not social groups and emphasize technical and managerial processes instead of political actions and mobilization. As a consequence, they were ineffective in mobilizing law and rights, as well as citizens and social groups. In both settings, the governments are resisting and contesting these efforts as well as the civil society itself. As a result, civic activism focused on government accountability and the rule of law was pacified while, particularly in the Cambodia, informal mechanisms of clientelism and patronage were strengthened. This means that the citizens were not empowered to mobilize law and demand accountability but, paradoxically, they were encouraged to take over some of the government responsibilities themselves or mobilization of right takes place through informal structures. This, in turn, strengthens the networks of clientelism and patronage. The findings are based on a research conducted in Cambodia (2014-2015), and Serbia (2015-2016) using a combination of qualitative sociological methods and an ethnographic approach. 

Ryoko Takahashi | Kanazawa University

Disabled people’s organizations as agencies for the reform of disability policy and legislation in Asian countries




The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) was adopted in 2006. It is the most important international agreement related to disability policy. In order to ratify the CRPD, every country should revise its existing welfare laws or make new laws. One of the significant characteristics of the CRPD is the support for the participation of disabled persons in society, particularly with regard to welfare policymaking.
I researched the role of disabled people’s organizations (DPOs) in the process of formulating policies for the disabled. I reviewed and compared the histories of legislations with regard to the welfare for the disabled and advocacy activities of DPOs in different countries. DPOs are actively participating in welfare policymaking both in the West and in Asian countries such as Japan and Korea, which are members of OECD.
The experiences of DPOs in Japan and Korea have shown the importance of strategies that were devised with consideration of their political situation. It is necessary to make the best use of demand for international cooperation, as exemplified by the ratification of the CRPD, in order to reform welfare systems through the revision of existing laws or enforcement of new laws.
In Asian countries, there is often a gap between rapid economic growth and development of welfare policies. In order for disabled people to remove social barriers, form DPOs and participate in policymaking, it will no doubt be necessary to establish special conditions, while referring to cases in Western countries, Japan and Korea. In this report, I add references to Vietnam, where strong disabled citizens’ movements have emerged quite recently, and the CRPD was ratified at about the same time as in Japan. I examine the advocacy activities of DPOs and their influence on changing disability policy and legislation in Asian countries.

Yuriko Haga | Faculty of Law, Kanazawa University

Protection versus Usage: Privacy in the Era of Big Data




Privacy is an important concept in today’s world and considered as a part of human right.
The concept of privacy first arose at the end of 19th century as “the right to be let alone”. It was understood, then, that the right to privacy allowed us to be free from others’ interference.
However, with the development of technology and the birth of the information society, this traditional understanding has shown its limitation. Information, a crucial factor for public administration or/and business activities, is collected and used by the various actors of society. Information is becoming more and more, of great social and economic importance.
The negative approach (to be let alone, that is, not to be bothered) is no longer enough to enjoy a tranquil life. Each “owner” of information (“data source subject”) should have control over of his/her own personal data to prevent information abuses. Hence, the right to privacy shifts to that of “the right to control one’s own information”, the right to seek disclosure, and compel correction and/or erasure of personal data.
The arrival of the era of internet now ushers in a new phase of privacy rights. The internet facilitates discovery of information which was previously difficult to find; and the ability to compile fragmented information that can lead to a hidden or missed-over fact (“profiling”). A key actor that plays an important part in this is the search engine.
Today, new issues on privacy are actively discussed: For example, privacy infringement through the ubiquitous divulgation of a person’s secret through the internet, or the claims for erasure of the search result, not the information itself (“right to be forgotten”).
This presentation will aim to give an overview of the development and changes in the legal concept of privacy and to analyze current and future situation through the legal discussions in Japan.



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