ISBN : 2-940259-58-5    82 pages    Year: 2004

The report examines why many individuals, particularly those who are vulnerable because of exclusion, poverty and discrimination, are unable to obtain and enjoy benefits and rights to which they are entitled in law, and to identify practical steps that can be taken to improve access to those rights. The research looks at the nature and mechanisms of the impediments that obstruct large numbers of people from enjoying their human rights. The purpose is to analyse these obstacles and identify remedies that would improve access.

Around the world, large numbers of people are not able to enjoy the human rights to which they are entitled. For a variety of reasons, these individuals lack access to rights that are written in law, and which, theoretically, are protected by local, national and international institutions. Certain large groups tend to suffer from lack of access to a marked degree. They include the urban poor, the rural poor, migrants, indigenous groups and women.

The problem has many causes — exclusion, discrimination, disempowerment, physical distance and poverty. More generally, why are so many people unable to claim or make use of rights they have, even when these are not explicitly abused or denied and even when institutions and procedures exist that protect formally those rights? What factors impede or prevent people from accessing their rights? What actions can be taken by human rights organisations and others to improve access?

To research these issues, a two-day international conference took place in Guadalajara, Mexico on January 16-17, 2003 with forty participants gathered to discuss the problem. Ten background papers — that can be downloaded below — were prepared for the seminar.