PARADOXES AND DILEMMAS OF INSTITUTIONAL CHANGE: HUMAN RIGHTS AND LIVELIHOODS IN RURAL WAR-TORN ANGOLA
Description This case study1 critiques the conceptual architecture of a United Nations peacebuilding project called the Human Rights Committee (HRC) and suggests areas of further research and potential action to identify mismatches between local context and institution-building efforts that generate disempowering government structures. The committees were designed for implementation in Angola’s war-torn provinces as peace loomed uncertainly in early 2001. The case study assesses the information available in April 2001,2 and on this basis forecasts how the Committee was set to affect lives and livelihoods, if it was to operate as planned. In the sections below, the study considers three ‘snapshots’ of the small semiurban city of Uige, capital of Angola’s northern Uige province: formal political institutions; informal landscapes; and how these were imagined in the documents and processes of the Human Rights Committee. The paper asks, ‘what are the implications associated with how well the three fit?’ Findings are presented in six parts. First there is a brief description of the HRC and how various implementers viewed it. Second is a portrait of the capital city of Uige during Angola’s 30-year civil war and the massive displacement of its citizens that followed it. Third is a sketch of the ‘formal’ and ‘informal’ political and civic landscapes of Uige. The fourth section describes how the HRC valued and sought to interact with both the ‘formal’ and ‘informal’ political dimensions of Uige. The fifth section examines the finding that the Committee resembled a top-down, externally driven, state-building project premised on values that were ostensibly universal rather than on vetted knowledge. Concluding suggestions are discussed in the context of the complex relationship between state and society in Angola and the challenges for development.
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