MacArthur Awards for Creative & Effective Institutions

Social and Economic Rights Action Center

Lagos, Nigeria | 2010 Award Recipient

Protecting the social and economic rights of marginalized people in Nigeria

The Social and Economic Rights Action Center in Nigeria is a leading African organization protecting the internationally-recognized economic, cultural, and social rights of marginalized people through advocacy, community organizing, mediation, and litigation.

The Ogoni people of the Niger Delta have long suffered violent attacks and extreme environmental contamination linked to foreign oil companies. In 2001 the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights issued the landmark ruling that the Ogoni's economic, cultural, and social rights were being violated. This ruling was among the high-profile successes of the Social and Economic Rights Action Center, which lets people know these rights exist and then helps protect them. Economic, social, and cultural rights are recognized by international law but are not as easily enforced as civil and political rights. The Center plays a critical role in seeking redress for communities and individuals who have been forcibly evicted from their homes, educates marginalized people and the general public on the specifics of economic, social, and cultural rights, and is an important resource for judges, lawyers, journalists, and activists. The Center also gives people a voice in the development of policies that affect them. Staff broker meetings between businesses, government entities, international development agencies, and embattled communities. When dialogue is not enough, the center supports communities in public campaigns and lawsuits to address injustices. Current efforts include upholding the rights of people living with HIV/AIDS and combating widespread forced evictions in many Nigerian cities.

The Social and Economic Rights Action Center will use its $350,000 award to build and supply a resource, documentation, and conference center. The center, including a library, will be a meeting place for those involved in rights work and also a repository for documentation of rights violations.


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