Human rights and democracy promotion: reflections on the contestation in, and the politico-economic dynamics of, rights promotion

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Abstract

This contribution seeks to engender more nuanced reflection on the role of human rights advocacy and specifically its role in democracy promotion. The two agendas have been seen as conjoined and harmonious by most aid donors; yet, interestingly and perceptively, some commentators have recently criticised the notion that they are agendas that are straightforwardly compatible or coherent. I examine here from a theoretical perspective the plausibility and the consequences of the claim that the two agendas share a more complex and controversial relationship than is often assumed. Specifically, I seek to highlight the importance of paying attention to the possibility that rights themselves are inherently 'contradictory' in nature and that therein lies their contribution to the democratisation agenda. Indeed, by drawing on Samuel Bowles's and Herbert Gintis's view of rights claims as 'clashing' and 'politico-economically' grounded, the aim of this article is to argue for a more politicised and openly contradiction-accepting approach to rights and democracy promotion. I contextualise this (theoretically motivated but practically consequential) argument in the context of the EU's human rights and democracy promotion policies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1573-1587
Number of pages15
JournalThird World Quarterly
Volume32
Issue number9
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 31 Oct 2011

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