Health, education and decent public transport – these were the demands of the hundreds and thousands of Brazilians who marched through the streets of Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo and many other cities during June and July 2013. A seemingly insignificant rise in public bus fares was the spark that set alight a mass movement of ordinary citizens who have condemned the massive financial investments the Brazilian government has made in preparing for the forthcoming World Cup and Olympics, while health, education and transport remain underfunded and poor quality.
These were only the latest in a series of movements that have erupted spontaneously across the globe in recent years. The Occupy movement, the student marches in Chile and Montreal, the riots in Greece, the Indignados in Spain, evidence a growing frustration about the shrinking spaces for practicing democracy and exercising rights and the dominance of an economic model that promotes austerity above all other considerations. Young people, especially, are becoming ever more disillusioned with the lack of job opportunities and social security, which ultimately deprive people of the freedom to make choices in life.
We are faced with a paradox where economies of the so-called first world are in deep recession while the economies of so-called third world countries, such as Brazil and India, are growing steadily. Citizen discontent has crossed these boundaries and the recent protest movements have highlighted the persistence of inequality in and between countries, and that fact that millions of people are routinely denied the most basic rights and freedoms.
This blog aims to create a space for conversation and reflection on contemporary challenges to the realization of human rights – particularly economic, social and cultural rights – and just, sustainable development. By drawing on the most recent development in human rights advocacy and activism, as well as concrete examples of struggle and resistance of ordinary people from around the world, we hope to better understand the discontents and frustrations that drive their demands. Ultimately, this is a space in which to question what shape the discourse and practice of human rights and development should take in the face of contemporary global realities.