Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Defensoría del Pueblo

Today I gave a public talk at the Defensoría del Pueblo, the office of the Bolivian Human Rights Ombudsperson. I spoke for an hour on problems of justice and rights in the periurban communities where I work, and then my colleague spoke about our ongoing project to bring legal and psychological services into these communities. The talk was well received.

What do we have in the United States that is equivalent to this office? If a citizen has a complaint against an entity of the government, to whom can they turn? It strikes me as remarkable that we don't have a similar office in the U.S. But then again, we don't really think of ourselves as having human rights in the U.S. Sure we have civil rights, but we seem to think that human rights only belong to people in faraway lands. How is it that Americans have excluded themselves from possessing something that is meant to be the universal property of all humankind?


Anonymous said...

What's the difference between human and civil. Doesn't the Dec of Indep outline our human rights and isn't the constitution built on it - at least implied.

Daniel Goldstein said...

Our founding documents do contain many of these principles, but we generally don't think of them as human rights per se. When a policeman beats up a suspect, we don't talk about it as a human rights violation, the way we would if the same thing happened in Haiti or Zambia.