Lucie E. White


This is an exciting time in Africa. Yes, of course it is true that the rise of fundamentalist political movements, armed conflict, epidemic diseases, and extreme poverty will challenge the continent for decades to come. I don’t need to tell you that. Yet at the same time, we are witness to what many call an “African Renaissance.” In many domains, including the arts, civil society, social provision, and democratic governance, African nations are beginning to take their place in a newly configured globe. One of these domains of energy, innovation, and hope is a new human rights movement. This movement emerged out of three converging trends: new capacities and institutions for democratic governance, a new vibrancy of civil society and grassroots participation, and a new enthusiasm among young, determined, and iconoclastic human rights lawyers who have embraced pragmatic rather than formalistic approaches to law. These young lawyers have taken on the most challenging area of human rights practice: that of vindicating people’s core rights to food, health care, housing, education, and a decent livelihood—indeed, to life itself. These lawyers have embraced the impossible, reworking human rights to bring sustainable improvements to people’s lives. They have been out there when others have given up, hewing “stones of hope” from what others had wrongly called a “mountain of despair.”

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