Reframing public goods: human rights, community and governance in the third world
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The thesis takes as its starting point the importance of community in contemporary political societies across the world, most notably, for present purposes, the Third World. Community importantly determines questions of social inclusion, exclusion, identity, belonging and well-being. As is no surprise, the role and significance of community is well recognised in several academic disciplines today. Consider this one example. Recent literature on development has generally drawn attention to the potential benefits of participation in certain aspects of governance. More specifically, proposals for community participation have emerged in response to State failure, or now the pervasiveness of market exclusion. Community participation is motivated by several grievances, the most emphatic of which is the profound gap between the lived experiences of the poor and institutions that affect their lives. This gap between discourse and lived experience is more vividly evident in human rights practice, and this not only reflects the dominance, but also the inadequacies of State and market-based understandings alike. A fundamental aspect of this debate – largely overlooked by human rights discourse – is the role of community. Whilst there remain marginal references to community in certain aspects of human rights discourse, over all it has not sufficiently or comprehensively embraced community. More specifically, the Declaration of Right to Development, Rights-Based Approaches to Development and the World Bank‘s concept of good governance fail to offer an adequate role for community in human rights terms. Drawing from a range of literature in legal theory, political theory, philosophy and sociology, and developing its insights in the context of the supply of the – human right and – public good of electricity in Nigeria, the thesis offers a theory of community, which seeks to enable individuals, particularly, the poor and vulnerable, to organise themselves democratically, to claim ownership of the processes that determine their human rights.