Why Should We Have to 'Represent' Anyone?

SUR - International Journal On Human Rights, v. 11, n. 20, Jun./Dec. 2014

24 Pages Posted: 23 Jan 2015

See all articles by Fateh Azzam

Fateh Azzam

American University of Beirut

Date Written: March 3, 2014


The question of “who do we represent?” has dogged the global human rights community for some time now and a recent flurry of articles have appeared that question the legitimacy of human rights and other NGOs by juxtaposing them against social or grassroots movements. Several authors have noted that because of NGO dependence on donors, their agendas and political outlook are necessarily affected and even subjugated and their links to the community are weakened. Having been involved in these debates in the Arab region for over twenty years and taking the example of Palestine as an extremely aid-dependent and politically volatile society, the author of this article takes issue with some of the assertions made, whether they concern human rights or civil society organizations more generally. Rather than pose either/or propositions, this article posits that it is important to adopt a more inclusive attitude that recognizes the diversity of approaches as enriching the creative and mutually supportive components of civil society. In Palestine, it is the very multiplicity and variety of civil society that is perhaps the only glimmer of hope in a grim political environment.

Keywords: NGOisation, Palestine, Grassroots Movements, Legitimacy, Representation

Suggested Citation

Azzam, Fateh, Why Should We Have to 'Represent' Anyone? (March 3, 2014). SUR - International Journal On Human Rights, v. 11, n. 20, Jun./Dec. 2014. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2553345

Fateh Azzam (Contact Author)

American University of Beirut ( email )

Beirut, 0236

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