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    IPON`s Human Rights Approach

    The international human rights treaties are the basis for IPON`s work. Amongst others the work of IPON refers especially to the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Accordingly, IPON follows a legalistic human rights approach, which is characterised by the following definition of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights:


    "Human rights are rights inherent to all human beings, whatever our nationality, place of residence, sex, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, language, or any other status. We are all equally entitled to our human rights without discrimination. These rights are all interrelated, interdependent and indivisible. Universal human rights are often expressed and guaranteed by law, in the forms of treaties, customary international law, general principles and other sources of international law. International human rights law lays down obligations of Governments to act in certain ways or to refrain from certain acts, in order to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms of individuals or groups." (Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights 2009).


    In this context human rights refer to laws, customs and practices, which were evolved over time in order to protect every human being. Only states can sign and ratify the international human rights conventions and are, therefore, the only ones who can violate human rights. Besides the rights, the state has the duty to respect, to protect and to fulfil human rights under international law. The duty to respect demands the state to refrain from interfering with or curtailing the enjoyment of human rights. The duty to protect requires the state to protect individuals and groups against human rights abuses and the obligation to fulfil means that the state must take positive actions to facilitate the engagement of basic human rights (Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights 2009). Correspondingly, IPON tries to hold the state responsible for violating its duties and to improve human rights.


    In accordance with the legalistic approach IPON distinguishes between human rights violation and human rights abuses. While the latter can be committed by non state actors, the first (the actual violation) can be only committed by state actors. Even though IPON considers the state as the responsible actor to uphold human rights, abuses by non state actors are nevertheless documented by IPON in case a certain private group systematically abuses human rights. There are two major reasons for the documentation of human rights abuses of non state actors: First, IPON takes thereby into account the increasing role of private actors taking over governance functions for a certain social group in areas of limited statehood. IPON observes this development with concern. Second, IPON admits the increase of intrastate conflicts, in which human rights abuses are often systematically committed by non state actors.

    Why choosing the instrument of Human Rights Observation in conflict?

    First, IPON believes that human rights observation can contribute to prevent or ease violence. As violence is not merely caused by actors, but also by structures supporting the deprivation of human needs and failure of human rights, human rights observation can improve state structures by addressing the state to fulfil its duties.


    Second , IPON thinks that human rights observation is only effective at the time the conflict resides in a free or low violence period. In this period the monitoring of human rights violation can strengthen the inferior party and therefore avoid that a group takes up violent means.


    Third, IPON believes that human rights observation can contribute to hinder the outbreak of violent conflict through the distribution of objective information in which the existence of and the persons responsible for human rights violations are pointed out. Stressing on the enforcement and protection of laws and judicial institutions, a reduction of human rights violation should be reached, which often can lead to an easing of tension.

    Why choosing a Human Rights approach?

    Within a human rights approach every person is a bearer of rights. Each individual is in the first line seen as a person in possession of rights rather than someone relying on public or foreign help. While the latter can create further dependencies on the constituents, a human rights approach wants to enable constituents to advocate their own rights and reach thereby an adequate living.

    A human right approach implies further the existence of duty bearers (the state) being responsible for the situation, which means that not only the person itself is made responsible for her/his situation. 

    In addition, a human rights approach tries to respond to long-term needs and improvements by promoting social change in institutions and political structures. Thereby, a human rights approach goes beyond sole charity or a basic needs approach. Instead of addressing the consequences of deprivation of rights and needs, a human rights approach tries to address problems at its root.