The Bolivian Defensoría Del Pueblo and Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
De Beco, G., E. Brems & W. Vandenhole (eds.), The Role of National Human Rights Institutions in the Promotion and Protection of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (Intersentia Press, 2013)
33 Pages Posted: 30 Jun 2012 Last revised: 13 Jul 2014
Date Written: June 28, 2012
Bolivia is a highly unequal society, displaying some of the worst living standards in South America, and a political system which has historically excluded the majority of its citizens. In a country where democratic practice has often been fleeting, it is perhaps unsurprising that the focus has fallen predominantly on a procedural realm of political rights and core defensive civil liberties. However, economic, social and cultural rights (ESCRs) are increasingly gaining attention as a fragile democratic regime is tested by popular demands for the righting of widely perceived historic wrongs. Many of those popular demands centre on access to basic public goods and services. This paper addresses the contribution of the Bolivian Defensoría del Pueblo or human rights ombudsman to the protection and promotion of ESCRs. Activated in 1998, the Bolivian Defensoría has been recognised as arguably the most effective state actor in terms of advancing rights and active citizenship. In this paper, the ability of the Defensoría to achieve concrete ESCR gains is attributed to three key dimensions: (1) accessibility, especially to those most vulnerable groups in Bolivian society, (2) responsiveness to the day-to-day grievances of all Bolivian inhabitants, and (3) productive relations with other rights stakeholders, both state and non-state actors. In a social setting where the state has traditionally neglected representative democracy and done little to redress persistent human rights violations, the Defensoría has become a highly significant referent point for ESCR protection and promotion.
Keywords: human rights, NHRIs, United Nations, economic, social and cultural rights, institutions, compliance, enforcement, implementation, Latin America, Bolivia
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