Thursday, June 9, 2022


Civic engagement or civic participation is any individual or group activity addressing issues of public concern. Civic engagement includes communities working together or individuals working alone in both political and non-political actions to protect public values or make a change in a community.

"Contributing to society and supporting our own well-being are two sides of the same coin -- by being engaged and contributing we bolster our well-being and become more resilient”.

Civic engagement involves “working to make a difference in the civic life of one’s community and developing the combination of knowledge, skills, values and motivation to make that difference. It means promoting the quality of life in a community, through both political and non-political processes.”

Civic engagement includes both paid and unpaid forms of political activism, environmentalism, and community and national service. Volunteering, national service, and Human Rights Education are all forms of civic engagement.

Participation in civic engagement activities can help citizens become better informed about current events.

HRBA creates channels for the participation of a broad spectrum of stakeholders, including, poor and disadvantaged people, minorities, indigenous peoples, women, children and youth. HRBA promotes active, meaningful and continuous voluntary participation; it stresses that developing capacities for participation is an important result in itself.

Definition and Constructs

Civic engagement is defined as working to make a difference in the civic life of one’s community. It also involves developing the combination of knowledge, skills, values, and motivation to make that difference. These activities enrich the lives of citizens and are socially beneficial to the community. We take a look at the four constructs




Civic Engagement

Working to make a difference in the civic life of one’s community

Civic Action

Civic Commitment or Duty

Civic Skills

Social Cohesion

Civic Action; or participation in activities such as volunteering or service learning to help better the community

Civic Commitment; or Duty, or the willingness to make positive contributions to society

Civic skills; or the ability to be involved in civil society, politics and Democracy

Social Cohesion ; or a sense of reciprocity, trust and bonding to others.

 It’s found out that “among HRDs, volunteering plays a valuable role in shaping how they learn to interact with their community and develop the skills, values, and sense of empowerment necessary to become active citizens.”

Another possible form of civic action and civic commitment and duty is Human Rights Education. Research shows that HRE and civic engagement can be related but are not the same thing. HRE does not have to include a civic dimension and not all forms of civic engagement are HR based.

"As people face more and more Human Rights challenges, in terms of environmental, economic and social factors like Poverty, GBV and climate change, as well as mental health issues, the potential for simple programmes like community empowerment, inclusivity to improve resilience is really exciting through participatory approach.”

Our communities are stronger when everyone has the opportunity to contribute. Just and resilient states rely on empowered communities—we believe that participatory design is key to that process. Our work as HRDs can help a community establish relationships through coordination, gain knowledge, and be better prepared to face dynamic Human Rights challenges.

We believe that engaging communities in design thinking is an important way to create successful interventions from planning and design through implementation. The community’s input shaped a neighborhood identity that they could proudly integrate into development projects with greater autonomy and cohesion. This is attained through Participatory Approach.

International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR)

Highlights Violations of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

The notion of violation applied vigorously to civil and political rights is often not used regarding economic, social and cultural rights. The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights has developed the concept of 'minimum core obligations'. The Committee developed this concept mainly to refute the argument that lack of resources hinders fulfillment of obligations. The Committee has stated that every State has a minimum core obligation to satisfy minimum essential levels of each of the rights of the Covenant. The Committee has clarified that a State party 'in which any significant number of individuals is deprived of essential foodstuffs, of essential primary health care, of basic shelter and housing, or of the most basic forms of education is prima facie, failing to discharge its obligations under the Covenant'.

Thus, it can be construed that failure to fulfill minimum core obligations will be a violation of the rights enshrined in the Covenant. However, the notion of violation of economic, social and cultural rights need to be further developed. A group of distinguished experts in international law has developed principles known as the Limburg Principles. These principles provide a basic framework through which the notion of violations of economic, social and cultural rights can be developed. According to the Limburg Principles, ‘a failure by a State party to comply with an obligation contained in the Covenant is, under international law, a violation of the Covenant.’


Articles 2(2) and 3: Non-discrimination

Article 2 (2) and Article 3 deal with the non-discrimination aspect. Article 2 (2) is similar to other instruments in stating that the rights should be enjoyed without discrimination on the grounds of 'race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.'

The Committee’s General Comment No.20 underlines that, in order for States parties to “guarantee” that the Covenant rights will be exercised without discrimination of any kind, discrimination must be eliminated both formally (ensure that the State’s Constitution and laws do not discriminate) and substantively (elimination of de facto discrimination in practice). States parties must make particular efforts in eliminating systemic discrimination and discrimination in the private sphere (families, workplaces).

Article 3, on the other hand, is more specific. It provides for the 'equal right of men and women to the enjoyment of rights…set forth in the Covenant.'

The concept of 'progressive realization' is not applicable to the non-discrimination clause and the obligation to ensure equal rights of men and women. The obligation is to ensure it immediately and not progressively.

The obligation to ensure the equal rights of men and women includes affirmative action to eliminate conditions that contribute to discrimination.

Gender Equality as a Human Right

This refers to the equal rights, responsibilities, and opportunities of Women, and men, girls and boys and of gender-diverse people. They all enjoy the same status and have equal opportunity to realise their full human rights and potential to contribute to national, political, economic, social and cultural development and to benefit from the results.

This is protected by;

-          The Charter of the United Nations

-          Constitutive Act of the African Union

-          Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR)

-          International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)

-          International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR)

-          The Convention on Elimination of All forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW)

-          The Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo Protocol)


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