Skip to content. | Skip to navigation

Personal tools
Sections
You are here: Home News 2017 May Democracy, social authoritarianism, and the human rights state theory: towards effective citizenship in Brazil
You are here: Home News 2017 May Democracy, social authoritarianism, and the human rights state theory: towards effective citizenship in Brazil

Democracy, social authoritarianism, and the human rights state theory: towards effective citizenship in Brazil

Publicado em May 08, 2017 04:55 PM

Article by Ulisses Terto Neto

As published by The International Journal of Human Rights

Abstract

Human rights have advanced since Brazil’s re-democratisation, but social authoritarianism prevents more advancements. Progress requires structural changes. I argue that human rights state theory might work as a ‘realistic utopia’ for human rights defenders to persuade the Brazilian nation state to fully embrace human rights norms. But it ignores the role international human rights law can play. Beyond Gregg, I propose the development of a human rights state that seeks the internalisation and socialisation of international human rights law in Brazil’s domestic jurisdictions. I advance that theory to incorporate international human rights law towards establishing a human rights culture. I draw on empirical evidence from a specific case study to undergird my argument and develop a political strategy on how further human rights change could perhaps be brought to Brazil with the help of the idea of a human rights state.

Introduction

Brazil has become a constitutional democracy, but human rights are still widely and regularly violated. This is because Brazil’s structures are still deeply marked by social authoritarianism, which reflects a scenario of poverty, inequality, exclusion and violence. More human rights progress is therefore dependent on deep-rooted structural changes and human rights defenders (activists, militants, groups and human rights non-governmental organisations (NGOs)) have an important role to play. There is consequently the need for a new project of sociability towards effective citizenship, which reflects the urgency for human rights defenders to lead the way towards socially constructing a human rights culture. The theory of a human rights state, as a political project, is helpful since it calls for collective political action to be achievable. However, I argue that for the human rights state theory to be effective as a political strategy on how further human rights change in Brazil’s case, the importance of international human rights law has to be considered.

Undertaking an approach that combines theoretical perspectives such as international human rights law, constitutional law, and normative legal philosophy, I go beyond Gregg to propose the development of a human rights state that seeks the internalisation and socialisation of international human rights law in Brazil’s domestic jurisdictions. International human rights law provides core arguments to human rights defenders for ways to change domestic cultures that, like Brazil’s social authoritarian culture, are not human rights cultures. This is an original approach since human rights state theory undervalues the importance of international human rights law for achieving its own goals. In the first section I provide a brief analysis of Brazil’s human rights context. The analysis proceeds from the assumption that violence and inequality are structural problems that directly influence how Brazil observes international human rights norms. In the second section, I shed light on the theory of a human rights stateand explain why it is a political project to pursue. I argue that human rights state theory offers human rights defenders a resource for persuading the Brazilian nation state to advance human rights domestically by changing the existing cultural politics and creating a new sociability with effective citizenship. The analysis has been conducted considering the work of Dagnino, Clark et al., Brinks, Somers, Isin, and Alvarez et al. Further, going beyond Gregg, I develop human rights state theory to incorporate international human rights law towards establishing a human rights culture in Brazil. Then, drawing on empirical evidence from a specific case study to undergird my argument, I develop a vision, a political strategy how further human rights change could perhaps be brought to Brazil with the help of the idea of a human rights state. Finally, in the third section, I present a brief conclusion.

To make Brazil fully compliant with international human rights law, social movements and human rights NGOs - under human rights defenders' leadership - need to radically change the current cultural politics tha reproduces social authoritarianism and prevents citizenship.

Brazil is a post-colonial society with a historical legacy of social authoritarianism. With the fall of democracy in the 1960s, it became infamous for grave human rights violations. It was only in the late 1970s that the country started its return to democracy, and human rights could once again rise up the agenda. Despite considerable progress since its re-democratisation (1985), there still remains much to be done, especially if we consider economic, social and cultural rights. Notwithstanding the efforts of various post-1985 governments, the necessary structural changes towards a less violent and more egalitarian Brazilian society are yet to come.

Although Brazil’s transition to democracy can be explained through the lens of the spiral model of human rights change, we need to look deeper into the country’s current complexities if we want to understand the obstacles to further human rights progress. In this regard, drawing on Dagnino’s work, I conduct the analysis considering that human rights activism – under human rights defenders’ headship – is seeking new roles such as (1) fighting for improving democratic institutions, and (2) addressing the structural problems such as poverty, social exclusion, inequality and violence or, simply put, social authoritarianism.

The analysis proceeds from the assumption that democracy and the rule of law per se have not yet been enough to bring about meaningful structural changes. Brazil is still deeply marked by social authoritarianism. Dagnino coined this term to conceptualise the fight for redefining Brazilian democracy. According to her, the notion of democracy needs to be redefined in order to intensify its fundamental egalitarian meaning and socialise it beyond political institutions, reaching out to social and cultural practices. A decisive contribution to this redefinition of democracy, she argues, arose from the role played by social movements in recent democratisation processes in Latin America, especially in Brazil’s case. She contends that ‘Brazilian society is one in which economic inequality and extreme levels of poverty have been only the most visible aspects of the unequal and hierarchical organisation of social relations as a whole – which can be called a social authoritarianism’. This means that class, race and gender differences still dictate a hierarchical social classification of people that reproduces inequality at all levels of social relations in Brazilian society. Hence, ‘the achievement of full citizenship is possible if the structural constraints to citizenship are overcome’ in Brazil.

Although post-1985 democratic governments ratified international and regional human rights instruments, these norms have not yet been socialised into all governmental practices to make Brazil fully compliant with international human rights law. This presents significant obstacles to the construction of a new citizenship, especially because the structures of social authoritarianism have so far frustrated efforts to build the political will to affect (bringing further) human rights (progress) nationwide. As a result, ‘the thinking of citizenship as always, everywhere, unfinished/imperfect is a powerful way of keeping the location of citizenship in practices and processes visible’ so that this new project of citizenship towards a new sociability via social struggles is imaginable, possible and achievable in Brazil’s case. Although progress has been made concerning governmental practices directed at the advance of human rights conditions, it cannot be argued convincingly that respect for human rights is genuine in all levels of government. Thus, it is rather unlikely at the moment that Brazil is going to move from commitment to full compliance with international human rights law.

To make Brazil, that is, state officials and institutions at federal, state and local levels of government, fully compliant with international human rights law, social movements and human rights NGOs – under human rights defenders’ leadership – need to radically change the current cultural politics that reproduces social authoritarianism and prevents citizenship. I argue that human rights state theory offers human rights defenders a resource for persuading the Brazilian nation state to advance human rights domestically by changing the existing cultural politics and creating a new sociability with effective citizenship. That is to say, effective citizenship means that everyone under Brazil’s jurisdiction would be able to fully enjoy their constitutionally guaranteed human rights.

With the 1988 Constitution, this means specifically that Brazil needs to provide new rights bearers (dominated groups) with all of the formal and practical mechanisms they need in order to access rights and face up to the resistance coming from new duty bearers (the establishment or dominant groups).

Under human rights defenders' leadership, social movements and human rights NGOs can create a collective political engagement to push forward the human rights agenda in Brazil.

Progress requires structural changes and human rights advocates have an important role to play. Their role can be facilitated by the spiral model theory, at least with respect to advancing human rights through democratisation. Still, the spiral model theory is inadequate to address other contributing factors of Brazil’s poor human rights record, such as poverty, exclusion, inequality and violence. As explained earlier, the country is yet to be fully compliant with international human rights law. Hence, the work of human rights defenders towards the construction of a new sociability is necessary since they pursue a human rights project that allows everyone to enjoy effective citizenship. In this regard, I argue that the development of a human rights state can help Brazil move from commitment to full compliance with international human rights law. For that to occur, however, it is important to advance the theory of a human rights state so that the significance of international human rights law for improving Brazil’s domestic human rights regime can be also considered. Before doing so, however, let us first examine the theory.

The human rights state theory

A human rights state is a political project to be socially constructed by human communities. This is because concepts, behaviours and institutions that promote, create and provide justice are social constructs that are not originally undisputed. They are socially constructed into universal values to be pursued in society. Hence, a human rights state has to be understood within a ‘nonidiosyncratic perspective’, in the sense that it is apprehended or accepted consensually by individuals and human communities.

As a socially constructed political project, a human rights state produces ‘contingent, fallibilistic, and locally embedded’ norms that are consensually validated by human communities. It demands cultural socialisation that leads to members of human communities freely embracing that political project. Cultural socialisation in the sense that new values such as truth, justice, and so forth can reach all members of society who freely embrace them in order to socially bring about human rights change. This is because taken in this relativist sense, truth and justice are neither impossible nor drained of their capacity to motivate behavior. Rather, both truth and justice are driven not by some epistemological imperative for objectivity but by a pragmatic imperative for desired results.

The embrace of being truly free needs occur at both communal and individual levels. This demands ‘institutionalized socialization’, that is, those contingent, fallibilistic, and locally embedded norms become ingrained in the social institutions (as, for instance, the legal and educational systems) of human communities and this could generate ‘individual human rights personalities’ who, based on mutual solidarity and expectation, exercise their self-granted human rights and recognise the self-granted human rights of others.

A human rights state allows for a human rights project to be pursued through collective political action. n this respect, it is another tool to help individuals grow ‘assertive selfhood’ and ‘human rights personality’ since ‘someone socialized into assertive selfhood acquires the capacity to author his or her own human rights’. This involves institutionalised socialisation as well as cultural socialisation of human rights. It also involves the empowerment of members of human communities to be able to author their own human rights. In fact, a human rights state, as a political project, involves transmuting nation states that violate human rights norms into ones that are fully compliant with human rights norms. This metamorphosis occurs via the active participation in social struggles of all individuals who self-grant human rights and recognise the self-granted human rights of others. Ultimately, these individuals seek institutionalised socialisation of their demands vis-à-vis the enjoyment of their self-granted human rights or, putting it differently, the formal recognition by nation states of individuals’ self-granted human rights via nation states’ full compliance with cosmopolitan human rights standards already internalised into the domestic legal system.

To be sure, as Gregg argues, once juridified or formally institutionalised by nation states, human rights norms can become part of national constitutions and this helps protect vulnerable, oppressed and socially marginalised groups against mistreatment, oppression and marginalisation by dominant groups. In this sense, the pursuit of a human rights state via collective political action might eventually lead to self-conscious individuals accomplishing ‘human rights within a nation state’. Thus, a human rights state, as a political project, generates commitment to human rights. It calls for collective political participation that ‘involves constructing, discussing, interpreting, and vernacularizing the human rights idea’:

[…] by human rights state I mean a metaphorical polity constituted by interested, self-selected members of a corresponding nation state. Members constitute themselves as a human rights state by authoring their own human rights and mutually recognizing that authorship among themselves. A human rights state seeks to advance a free embrace of human rights in the corresponding nation state. It seeks to advance human rights as an internal feature of the nation state, in short, to encourage local politicians and legal systems to generate domestic legal obligations to abide by human rights.

A human rights state goes beyond the territorial claims of a nation state as well as surpasses being a legal citizen of that nation state. In fact, by making the human being central as a rights bearer, it defends a progressive logic of inclusion in which self-conscious citizens of a nation state put in practice or exercise a corresponding human rights state. In this sense, the collective political participation leads to a consensually validated human rights idea in the corresponding nation state. In this regard, a human rights state, as a political project, makes available a reformist programme for self-conscious individuals to defend, respect and promote human rights as an inner aspect of the corresponding nation state. Thus, a human rights state, as a political project, pursues the full adoption of human rights by the corresponding nation state. It provides a human rights advancement project aligned with cosmopolitan human rights standards to be formally institutionalised by human communities’ institutions and socialised among self-granting human rights individuals domestically.

How humans rights state theory can help change Brazil's authoritarian culture by constructing a new cultural politics of human rights

Although Brazil has opened itself up to international organs’ criticism and cooperation on human rights issues, violations of human rights persist countrywide. Democracy and the rule of law per se have not yet been enough to bring about structural change. Hence, it is important to establish a new cultural politics if the historically unjust and violent structures are ever to be radically changed, social authoritarianism overcome and effective citizenship achievable. The consolidation of democratic institutions and the protection, promotion and respect of human rights are key issues in the construction of this new cultural politics; and human rights defenders play a significant role in this collective socio-political process, for they are frontrunners in the social struggles for democracy and human rights. These social struggles together with the force of the human rights doctrine have somehow contributed to the social movements’ purpose of pursuing the establishment of a new sociability. They seek not only incorporation and effective participation in the political system, but also ‘a more egalitarian format for social relations at all levels, including new rules for living together in society (for the negotiation of conflicts, a new sense of a public order and public responsibility, a new social contract, and so on)’.

The project towards a new sociability demands social relations to be less hierarchical and more egalitarian so that individuals recognise each other as rights bearers and the right to have rights (effective citizenship) is fully enjoyed. This involves placing constitutionally guaranteed human rights as public parameters for social relations, which challenges the structures of social authoritarianism. This project towards a new sociability is a very complex task due to its politically and culturally changing characteristics and will require enormous efforts from both organised civil society and the state. oreover, the positivisation and socialisation of international human rights law into, respectively, Brazil’s legal system and society play an important role in pursuing a new sociability, particularly in making a venue for a standardised domestic human rights regime. In a broad sense, therefore, the recognition by the world of Brazil as an emerging middle power depends not only on the strengthening of its democratic institutions, but also, and more importantly, on its taking effective measures to promote, protect and respect human rights. Consequently, it is paramount that Brazil’s human rights discourse be in harmony with its actions.

Gregg’s proposal of a human rights state can help advance the project for a new sociability since it calls for the establishment of a new human rights culture domestically. A human rights state demands cultural socialisation that leads to individuals and communities freely embracing that political project. It envisions a human rights development project aligned with cosmopolitan human rights standards to be formally established by institutions and socialised among self-conscious individuals who, based on mutual solidarity, exercise their self-granted human rights and recognise the self-granted human rights of others. It allows for a human rights project to be pursued through collective political action. In this sense, a human rights state, as a political project, interfaces with the project towards a new sociability that would change the current cultural politics since both contain an ethical dimension for egalitarian social relations that calls for collective political action. Consequently, the potential of a human rights state (as a political project) to help bring about human rights change rests on the fact that it adds up to the project for a new sociability at the ideological level, in the sense that it challenges the social-symbolic structures.

To be sure, it aligns with the human rights trend that started in the 1970s and has been pushed forward by organised civil society and the state since the country’s re-democratisation. Brazil has chosen the human rights path, but still needs to bring its practices into line with its human rights discourse. It is exactly in this context that the idea of a human rights state can be powerful. The vision of an egalitarian and democratic society guided by self-conscious individuals who recognise each other as rights bearers and behave according to human rights standards is appealing and can be straightforwardly adopted by social movements led by human rights defenders locally. A human rights state is, in this sense, a ‘realistic utopia’ to be accomplished via collective political action.

Human rights defenders can keep leading the way and enhance the debate vis-à-vis socially constructing a human rights state in line with the project for a new sociability in which social relations are less hierarchical and more egalitarian and individuals, communities and formal institutions behave according to cosmopolitan human rights standards. This is because current Brazilian cultural politics contains a set of beliefs and values that disregard human rights standards. They represent the establishment and, as such, they reproduce beliefs and values that reiterate the current scenario of exclusion, poverty, inequality and violence or, simply put, social authoritarianism. To change this cultural politics we need events that cause external and internal dissonance.

xternal dissonance occurs via accessing new information, which in Brazil’s case is manifest in the construction of new ideas of Brazilian society. In this sense, the project for a new sociability together with a human rights state, as a political project, represents a dissonance in relation to the establishment since it challenges the structures of social authoritarianism. It presents a new vision of Brazilian society and, this way, it epitomises a ‘realistic utopia’. Internal dissonance occurs via the realisation of this ‘realistic utopia’ through collective political action that exposes Brazil’s contradictions and brings about social change. Here as well, the project for a new sociability together with a human rights state, as a political project, is helpful because it calls for collective political action. In Brazil’s case, therefore, ideological arguments (external dissonance) by human rights defenders are likely to bring about human rights change (internal dissonance) in the social construction of a new cultural politics.

Going beyond Gregg: developing human rights state theory to incorporate international human rights law towards establishing a human rights culture

Although Gregg rejects international human rights norms in favour of locally defined human rights norms, I argue that it is important for a human rights state theory to recognise the role international human rights law can play in changing Brazil’s cultural politics.

First, it should be noted that the country has already ratified the majority of international human rights treaties, so the problem is really about full compliance with international human rights norms at all levels of government: federal, state and local. International human rights law becomes in this sense a robust legal tool with which organised civil society and social movements in partnership with transnational advocacy networks can demand that the state fulfils its human rights obligations.

Second, there is a human rights trend that started in the 1970s and turned out to be significant for Brazil’s re-democratisation. Human rights have thus become part not only of organised civil society and social movement discourse, but also of official rhetoric since Brazil has ratified international human rights treaties to send out a signal that it pays attention to international pressures and hence wants to be fully compliant with international human rights law.

Third, it is important to consider that international human rights law encompasses values such as truth, justice, equality, fairness and so forth that promote democracy, human rights and social justice. It becomes in this sense a key political tool for organised civil society and social movements to pursue cultural socialisation as well as institutionalised socialisation of those values at all levels of society. This is so that those values reach all members of society who freely embrace them as well as become ingrained in social institutions so that individuals exercise their self-granted human rights and recognise the self-granted human rights of others.

Fourth, it should be borne in mind that the ratification of international and regional human rights instruments by post-1990 democratic governments demonstrates a strong connection between these governments, the positivisation of international human rights law and human rights public policies (internal and foreign policy) throughout the ongoing democratic period. This indicates that a yet-to-be-fully-consolidated human rights governmental culture together with efforts from organised civil society and social movements towards the improvement of human rights conditions, democracy and social justice make the project for a new sociability accomplishable.

Why international human rights law provides core arguments to human rights defenders for ways to develop human rights cultures

I draw below on empirical evidence from a specific case study to undergird my argument and develop a vision, a political strategy how further human rights change could perhaps be brought to Brazil with the help of the idea of a human rights state.

The analysis of interviews with human rights defenders, civil society actors and state officials involved with the public policy for the protection of human rights defenders reveals that Brazilian social movements and human rights NGOs have not only adopted the human rights terminology from the United Nations (UN) and OAS in their social struggles, but also contributed to the institutionalisation of international human rights norms and their socialisation towards constructing a new cultural politics. The socio-political process that led to the creation of the Brazilian Programme for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (PPDDH) is a good case study since it resulted from domestic and foreign pressures exerted by organised civil society in partnership with transnational advocacy networks and UN and OAS human rights mechanisms on the Brazilian State.

As explained by Darci Frigo, head of Terra de Direitos, [The main reasons for the PPDDH’s creation] without doubt were [1] first, Brazil’s Human Rights Secretariat, [which] with its development […] [helped give] sequence [to human rights policies]; all Ministries of State […] sought to advance […] citizenship, and [2] here [at Brazil’s House of Representatives] there is a group of parliamentarians linked to human rights, [3] a very strong pressure from popular and social movements, and from the UN system, from entities linked to human rights, [4] the national human rights conferences, all of which made hard and necessary demands, but also [5] pressure from the international system which is a call […] from these groups that act worldwide and that demand [the fulfilment of human rights obligations by] Brazil.

Organised civil society constructed a special forum named the Brazilian Committee of Human Rights Defenders (CBDDH) in order to discuss international human rights norms related to the protection of human rights defenders and their internalisation and socialisation domestically. The CBDDH became an important venue for organised civil society to exert pressure on the state over public policies related to the protection of human rights defenders. As Sandra Carvalho, coordinator of Justiça Global, said:

The [National] Human Rights Conferences point in this direction […] we witnessed many of our peers being killed, threatened, and vulnerable. […] [The protection of human rights defenders] was bodying up [with] […] the necessity to think about protection policies […]; and then some organisations from Brazilian [human rights] movements started to look at [political] processes in Latin America. […] An important landmark is the process of Latin American Consultations [about Human Rights Defenders], which happened in Guatemala, Mexico and the third and last one in Brazil in 2004. I think that with the more institutionalised instruments such as the 1998 UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, the creation of the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders, the creation of OAS’s Inter-American Commission on Human Rights’ Unit for Human Rights Defenders, and the European Union’s Guidelines for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders […]. So, […] we started using these instruments and conducting a discussion, exactly when the III Latin American Consultation about Human Rights Defenders occurred in August 2004, in São Paulo. […] This is a landmark for us […] because it was in the III Latin American Consultation about Human Rights Defenders that we constituted the CBDDH, which until today […] conducts the monitoring of PPDDH’s implementation […].

The external and internal pressures exerted on the state led to the PPDDH’s creation, the publication of Presidential Decree 6.044/2007, which regulates the national public policy for the protection of human rights defenders, and the submission of the PPDDH Bill (PL 4.575/2009) by the Executive in Congress. In this regard, the analysis of those quotations reveals that Brazilian social movements and human rights NGOs adopted international human rights norms’ principles and terminology to exert effective pressure on the state, especially due to the fact Brazil had been ratifying international human rights treaties since its re-democratisation and, thus, acquired human rights obligations to fulfil. The socio-political process that led to the creation of the PPDDH shows that international human rights norms and UN and OAS human rights mechanisms provided social movements and human rights NGOs with the legal instruments and human rights rhetoric they need in order to make their claims much stronger domestically. To be sure, empirical evidence demonstrate, particularly regarding the PPDDH’s creation, that international human rights norms and UN and OAS human rights mechanisms worked as reference points from which Brazilian organised civil society and transnational advocacy networks demanded effective protection for human rights defenders from the state.

The evidence suggests that human rights NGOs and social movements – under human rights defenders’ leadership – are effective and powerful actors that have proven able to mobilise significant political leverage for human rights change. They are, therefore, well-suited as actors to pursue the institutionalisation of human rights norms and their socialisation domestically by constructing a new cultural politics through social struggles for democracy, human rights and social justice. It is in this sense that I argue a human rights state has the potential to work as an ideological argument (‘realistic utopia’) with which human rights defenders can enhance their efforts to construct a human rights culture in Brazil. By adopting a human rights state as a political project to be socially constructed, Brazilian social movements and human rights NGOs would have a ‘realistic utopia’ with which to employ external and internal dissonance vis-à-vis the current establishment and exert effective pressure on the state about fulfilling its human rights obligations. Brazil already ratified the majority of international human rights treaties. It is thus committed to international human rights law. Brazil’s problem is not about commitment, but, instead, about the lack of full compliance with already internalised international human rights norms. In this regard, the vision of a human rights state can serve as a powerful tool to conceptually underpin a campaign for changing the cultural politics and close the gap between official commitment and full compliance with international human rights law since it calls for collective political action to make human rights a priority for individuals, communities and state institutions. But how could a human rights state be socially constructed in Brazil?

Organised civil society – social movements and human rights NGOs under human rights defenders’ leadership – campaigning and lobbying for state institutions’ full compliance with international human rights law and for self-granting human rights individuals and communities adjusting their behaviours according to human rights standards (human rights norms socialisation) is the best strategy to be employed in Brazil’s case. Campaigning and lobbying would involve all stakeholders – human rights defenders, civil society actors, and state officials. It would be a political process designed to engage individuals, communities and state institutions in socially constructing a human rights state. It would call for reforms politically and legally. The legal reform would involve the fulfilment and/or enforcement by state institutions of already internalised human rights norms, whereas the political reform would involve assessing and redesigning the state–civil society relationship vis-à-vis the management, operationalisation, monitoring, and full implementation of human rights public policies at federal, state and local levels. Here, the aim is to make individual and communal behaviours align with cosmopolitan human rights standards.

Additionally, organised civil society would create a political dynamic or engagement involving various civil society organisations in order to push forward the social construction of a human rights culture. Such a political dynamic would amplify its political articulations or engagements and reach out to as many civil society organisations working on human rights themes as possible. It would also engage with the National Human Rights Council as well as state human rights councils to gain their political support. The aim here is to strengthen the initial political dynamics around a much stronger political coalition of social movements, human rights NGOs and any other civil society organisations or human rights state bodies that conduct similar activities and, thus, have a common interest in implementing a human rights culture.

Once the political engagements are settled and the political shield is in place, then the political coalition would plan, organise and carry out a national campaign for changing the structures of social authoritarianism towards a new project of society or a human rights state. It would launch this national campaign publicly and reach out to the biggest – TV, radio and social – media channels in Brazil. The aim here is to advertise the national campaign to turn public opinion in favour of the human rights cause. Once the campaign is out there, the political coalition then seeks further political engagements to build new partnerships in order to increase their effective power to exert pressure on the state vis-à-vis achieving the needed human rights reforms.

The partnerships would occur with the state and private sector (or civil society as opposed to political society). In the public sector, the political coalition would build up partnerships with state actors from the executive, legislative and judiciary powers at federal, state and local levels. The aim here is to reach out to much more progressive state actors from all three state powers and other people occupying strategic positions, federal and state deputies, progressive federal and state judges. These state officials would help face and overcome bureaucratic intricacies and institutional resistances in/to the pushing of human rights reforms at all state levels. In the private sector (civil society sphere), the political articulation would build up partnerships with key civil society institutions and actors who work locally, regionally and nationally. The aim here is to reach out to civil society institutions and actors with strong influencing power or those strongly capable of exercising social control over state practices such as the Catholic Church, the Brazilian Bar Association, the Brazilian Press Association, leftist political parties, and social movements that still control thousands of militants/activists who work at the grassroots level. These civil society institutions and actors might help push human rights reforms even further once they are directly involved in the politics of human rights domestically.

These reforms would occur through democratic participation in civil society and be monitored by civil society. Participation and monitoring would permit the assessment and redesigning of the state–civil society relationship vis-à-vis human rights public policies at federal, state and local levels. For this to occur, as I argue in Brazil’s case, it is important to advance human rights state theory so that the significance of international human rights law for improving the country’s domestic human rights regime is considered. The majority of international and regional human rights treaties have already been ratified so that the issue now refers to moving Brazil from commitment to full compliance with international human rights law.

There are nonetheless obstacles to accomplishing further human rights change with the help of the idea of a human rights state in Brazil. First, after the country’s re-democratisation civil society organisations divided into different human rights agendas per specific struggles for political, civil, economic, social and cultural rights. Human rights NGOs and social movements have since then been pursuing their own specific agendas and often disputing funding and political space with each other. This makes concrete changes more difficult in the face of the structures of social authoritarianism since human rights NGOs and social movements are divided more weakly than otherwise. Second, civil society organisations’ partition into different human rights agendas has produced hierarchies between different groups of rights, for instance, civil and political versussocial, economic and cultural rights. Bearing in mind the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action’s determinations regarding state human rights universality, indivisibility, interdependence and interrelation,8080. OHCHR: http://www.ohchr.org/en/professiona-linterest/pages/vienna.aspx (accessed 19 January 2017).View all notesthis has been not only misleading, but also detrimental to a unified human rights project for Brazil. The convergence of these different agendas into a unified political project (human rights state) is thus important for pursuing a new sociability based also on international human rights law that interprets human rights as universal, indivisible, interdependent and interrelated.

Conclusion

In this article I argued that, to make Brazil fully compliant with international human rights law, social movements and human rights NGOs need to radically change the current cultural politics that reproduces social authoritarianism and prevents effective citizenship. Under the leadership of human rights defenders, social movements and human rights NGOs (organised civil society) can create a collective political engagement to push forward the human rights agenda. Human rights state theory might help in this socio-political process because it can be deployed towards changing Brazil’s current authoritarian culture into a new human rights culture. In this respect, I went beyond Gregg and developed the human rights state theory to incorporate international human rights law towards establishing a human rights culture in Brazil. I showed that by emphasising the importance of international human rights law towards establishing a human rights culture in Brazil, a human rights state provides human rights defenders with a strong ideological argument that can be combined with the legal argument vis-à-vis the fulfilment of Brazil’s human rights obligations. To be sure, I demonstrated that international human rights law provides core arguments to human rights defenders for ways to change domestic cultures that, like Brazil’s social authoritarian culture, are not human rights cultures. This increases the power of social movements and human rights NGOs – under human rights defenders’ headship – to persuade the Brazilian nation state to limit its sovereignty to the extent necessary for a full domestic embrace of human rights norms, that is, to make human rights norms an integral, internal element of its very constitution and to act in accordance with it.

Document Actions

Comments (0)

Institutional Support
  • apoio18.png
  • apoio19.png
  • apoio13.png
  • apoio10.png
  • logoCEA.png
  • apoio9.png
  • apoio6.png
  • logosnf.png
  • logobrot.png