IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Human rights as demands for communicative action


  • Gauri, Varun
  • Brinks, Daniel M.


A key issue with human rights is how to allocate duties correlative to rights claims. But the philosophical literature, drawing largely on naturalistic or interactional accounts of human rights, develops answers to this question that do not illuminate actual human rights problems. Charles Beitz, in recent work, attempts to develop a conception of human rights more firmly rooted in, and helpful for, current practice. While a move in the right direction, his account does not incorporate the domestic practice of human rights, and as a result remains insufficiently instructive for many human rights challenges. This paper addresses the problem of allocating correlative duties by taking the practices of domestic courts in several countries as a normative benchmark. Upon reviewing how courts in Colombia, India, South Africa, Indonesia, and elsewhere have allocated duties associated with socio-economic rights, the paper finds that courts urge parties to move from an adversarial to an investigative mode, impose requirements that parties argue in good faith, and structure a public forum of communication. The conclusion argues that judicial practice involves requiring respondents to engage in communicative, instead of strategic, action, and explores the implications of this understanding of human rights.

Suggested Citation

  • Gauri, Varun & Brinks, Daniel M., 2012. "Human rights as demands for communicative action," Policy Research Working Paper Series 5951, The World Bank.
  • Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:5951

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Philip Keefer & Stuti Khemani, 2005. "Democracy, Public Expenditures, and the Poor: Understanding Political Incentives for Providing Public Services," World Bank Research Observer, World Bank Group, vol. 20(1), pages 1-27.
    2. Jan, Stephen, 2003. "A perspective on the analysis of credible commitment and myopia in health sector decision making," Health Policy, Elsevier, vol. 63(3), pages 269-278, March.
    3. Keefer, Philip & Khemani, Stuti, 2003. "Democracy, public expenditures, and the poor," Policy Research Working Paper Series 3164, The World Bank.
    4. Nazmul Chaudhury & Shantayanan Devarajan, 2006. "Human Development and Service Delivery in Asia," Development Policy Review, Overseas Development Institute, vol. 24(s1), pages 81-97, August.
    5. Anna Fruttero & Varun Gauri, 2005. "The Strategic Choices of NGOs: Location Decisions in Rural Bangladesh," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 41(5), pages 759-787.
    6. Gauri, Varun, 2009. "Public interest litigation in India : overreaching or underachieving ?," Policy Research Working Paper Series 5109, The World Bank.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item


    Human Rights; International Terrorism&Counterterrorism; Parliamentary Government; Gender and Law; Health Law;

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:5951. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Roula I. Yazigi). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.