Friday, June 11, 2010

Institut de Drets Humans de Catalunya: Civil Society in Action--An Interview With Jaume Saura

Civil Society is usually spoken of in the singular--as a sort of unified institutional construct with a single animus and singular organization.  But is it well known that, like states and economic enterprises--civil society serves as a shorthand description for a large constellation of actors which, singularly and collectively, have assumed a critical role in global governance.

While the great global civil society actors are well known--Oxfam, Amnesty International and the like, the brunt of thew work of civil society is undertaken by a large group of organizations working from a virtually every corner of the globe.  These smaller organizations serve two critical roles-.  First they provide significant focus to local or regional manifestations of global issues central to their distinctive missions.  Second, they communicate with other similarly situated elements of civil society to leverage their ability to serve their communities and to harmonize their actions.  It is this combination of local action within a web of global issues served by local actors which amplify their effects through communication, coordination and harmonization of action/effort, helps construct both the diversity and singularity of civil society.

One such organization serving as an important element of this construct is the Institut de Drets Humans de Catalunya (English--the Human Rights Institute of Catalonia; Spanish, Instituto de Derechos Humanos de Cataluña).
The Human Rights Institute of Catalonia (IDHC) was created more than twenty years ago by a group of people committed to fighting for the progress of freedom and democracy in the world. Their aim was to join both individual and collective forces, coming from both public and private institutions, in order to expand the political, social and cultural rights of everyone.
Human Rights Institute of Catalonia, The Institute.  Like other active civil society actors in this sector, the IDHC undertakes a coordinated set of projects.
The IHRC carries out three parallel. yet independent, lines of work; the promotion, consultation, and teaching of human rights.
In each of these areas special attention is given to relations with other institutions, network participation and study and research activities.
In the area of promotion, activities of different types are carried out on diverse themes (forgotten conflicts, rights in the city, emerging rights, human rights in the street...) but with a common objective; to spread the culture of human rights in our society in order to make effective the respect, enjoyment and guarantee of fundamental rights.
With respect to its consultancy work, the IHRC offers technical and scientific support to public institutions in the development and implementation of, for example, the European Charter for the Safeguarding of Human Rights in the City. The Institute also gives its support to specific projects linked to the strengthening of the culture of human rights in civil society.
As part of its work teaching human rights, the IHRC organises courses, specialist seminars, short courses for specific groups, studies and research work, analysis and evaluation projects, and conferences at the local as well as the international level.
 IDHC, Activities.  One of its current efforts focuses on the increasing manipulation of law and law enforcement against migrants, especially in the south of Spain.  The IDHC has been concerned that the economic crisis has made it harder for some to resist the temptation to use set of aggressive interpretive and enforcement methods to effectively criminalize migrant status.   See, Manifesto MEDIDAS RACISTAS Y XENÓFOBAS: RESPUESTA POLÍTICA ANTE LA CRISIS Asociación Pro Derechos Humanos de Andalucía (APDHA) y el Instituto de Derechos Humanos de Cataluña (IDHC) (7th of May 2010)

I was fortunate enough to be able to speak recently about the work of the IDHC with its President , Jaume Saura Estapà.  Dr. Saura Estapa has served on the faculty of law of the University of Barcelona since 1990.  Professor Saura Estapà was kind enough to speak at length about the activities of IDHC, its organization, goals, mission, and interactions with other civil society actors, government and related stakeholders.

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