Accepted paper:

Rights and development? Human rights NGOs and debt bondage in South Asia


Elena Samonova (University of Helsinki)

Paper short abstract:

This paper examines the impacts of introduction of human rights language in the development practice. It focuses on rights based projects for bonded labourers and discusses the potentials and limitations of rights based approach to support the liberation of bonded labourers.

Paper long abstract:

Human rights are one of the most characteristic ideas of our time and human rights talk is widely used today in connection to different issues for justification of economic and political sanctions to explanation of poverty. The concept of human rights is present in development practice as well, and human rights based approaches are adopted by various development actors, including international organizations, donors and NGOs. This paper aims to examine how the concept of rights affects the development practice, using the example of rights based programs for bonded labourers in India and Nepal. The practice of bonded labour as exploitative interlinking of labour and credit agreement is declared as a form of modern slavery in several international legal acts and it explicitly prohibited in both international and national legislations. However, despite the prohibition of this practice, bonded labour is still one of the most widespread forms of slavery in the modern world. This paper focuses on the anti-bondage programs of rights based NGOs in Indi and Nepal. The paper demonstrates links between the concepts of rights, empowerment and participation and discusses potential and limitations of rights based approaches to support marginalized people in general, and bonded labourers in South Asia in particular. The paper is based on qualitative fieldwork that took place between November 2015 and December 2016.

panel A01
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