Building Civic Participation and Increasing Social Connectedness through Human-Rights-Based Approaches

Ana Sofia Hibon grew up in Lima, Peru. A graduating fourth-year student at McGill University, Ana studies International Development and Communications, and is passionate about human rights, storytelling, and the intersection of the two. After graduating, she intends to pursue a career in international human rights law.

In her essay, Building Civic Participation and Increasing Social Connectedness through Human-Rights-Based Approaches, Ana Sofia Hibon argues that civil participation programs must draw on rights-based approaches in order to enable citizens to effectively hold their governments and civil institutions accountable. Underpinning this argument are assertions that “civic participation and empowerment are pre-conditions for the continuance of all human rights,” and that “social connectedness is a means of increasing the quality and quantity of civic participation.”

Expanding on this, Ana reviews contemporary citizenship theory, noting that citizens can only realize their fundamental rights through “inclusive, legitimate, and appropriately represented citizen governance”, reinforced by government decision-making. Therefore, government accountability is crucial and can only be sought by engaged citizens. However, Ana explains that an engaged citizenry is partly dependent on societal capacity building. Absent this, people can be deprived of their sense of social and civic belonging, and their exclusion from governance can become normalized.

Ana writes that a human rights-based approach to development programming is designed to empower civil society to hold “duty bearers for human rights” accountable, and its capacity to do so is “heavily determined by the strength of the social connectedness of its citizens.”

Ana then analyzes the use of human rights-based approaches as applied in two development case studies: the prevention and monitoring of domestic sexual violence against female teenagers in the Madre de Dios region in Peru; and a social accountability initiative for transparent public infrastructure spending in the province of Abra in the Philippines.

 

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