Democracy is considered today as the best known system of just, egalitarian and equitable governance. More and more countries are adopting this form of nation state. Although India became a secular republic six decades back, but it is still considered as a democracy in transition. For transitional democracies to survive, synergies between democracy and existence of human rights should be as close as the life and consciousness. Sound democratic governance requires propagation of values of freedom, respect for human rights and principles of natural justice.
Realization of human and civil rights in India is faced with many challenges today. Although various governmental and non governmental efforts are being made in this direction, effective realization of human rights still remains a distant dream. Thus, there is a need for a coordinated effort by the government and various civil society organizations to address these challenges through dedicated research and advanced training and capacity building programs having focus on strengthening the legal framework for human rights; protection (institutional and legal reform); capacity building; empowering vulnerable and disadvantaged segments of the society; advocacy, awareness raising and human rights education and the like. These efforts inter alia are towards creating a vibrant civil society.
Currently, a number of civil society organizations are working in this direction to create a more informed and strengthened civil society. Still we find that a majority of people in the country continue to suffer from unimaginable hardship, with the most vulnerable among them being the poor among the scheduled castes and tribes, minorities (religious and linguistic) and other marginalized groups who are at tremendous risk in matters of both civil and human rights and lives and livelihoods. Thus, there is a need for joining hands to strengthen such efforts by creating more dedicated institutions to train individuals and civil society forums on human and civil rights.
The laws in the country suffer from weak implementation. Hence, there is a need for making institutionalized efforts to create conducive environment for the improvement and implementation of laws. While we have seen governmental and non governmental efforts in the form of National and State Human Rights Commissions, and certain popular civil society forums such as People’s Union for Civil Liberties working towards the criminal law reforms yet results are not very encouraging. In the present scenario, it would only be a prudent effort to strengthen these efforts by providing a dedicated support to these ongoing efforts.
The need for creating faith and respect for judiciary is also felt. As the number of people loosing faith in judiciary is growing phenomenally, civil society organizations need to work among people so as to bring their confidence and faith back to the judiciary. An institution willing to take up this challenging task is the need of the hour.
In the above context, APCR is seeking to develop a fully dedicated research and academic body for building knowledge and action base about civil justice and human rights issues. Such issues may include, but are not limited to civil and human rights, civil and human rights of minority communities, the effects of procedural and substantive reforms in law on minority community, trends in the treatment of expert testimony in criminal actions, and other topics deemed appropriate of understanding civil justice.
Civil society is composed of the totality of voluntary civic and social organizations and institutions that form the basis of a functioning society as opposed to the force- backed structures of a state (regardless of that state’s political system). The civil society outfits strive for fulfillment of certain basic civil aspirations such as human dignity, freedom, justice and equality.
Constitution of the India, the supreme law of the land, enshrines the goal of achieving a society based on civil rights and civic duties. The preamble to the Constitution encompasses civil excellence as paramount and basic spirit under the constitution.
The goal of civil excellence could be realized when the government and civil society make efforts for creating mass awareness and civil society joins hands in creating good governance and establishing rule of law. Civil excellence necessitates existence of regulatory mechanisms, awareness and sense of civic duties among masses. Tolerance, communal harmony and goodwill among sections in society also lead to civil excellence. There is thus need for constant reinforcement of civil engagement in upholding the human and civil rights high.
In order to achieve the objective of civil excellence, not only as a civil obligation but also as a matter of constitutional aspiration, there is a need for a coordinated and institutional effort. Hence, the need for establishing an Institute by the name of Institute of Civil Excellence (ICE). The Association for Protection of Civil Rights (APCR), a New Delhi-based civil rights body proposes the establishment of ICE with the objectives mentioned below.
Aims & Objects
The aims of establishing the Institute of Civil Excellence (ICE) are the following:
To create a place where intellectuals, philosophers, researchers, academicians and members of the society could meet and discuss problems, that beset our country today, and apply their mind to the fact that, in India with one of the best constitution in place we have serious social, and law and order problems leading to violation of civil and human rights.
This will not be a professional institute to compete with other professional bodies in a way that harms them.
The objectives of the Institute would be such as to encompass all activities in the field of civil excellence in a broad manner without having any conflict with any of the Professional Institutions and Societies.
The Institute which we are contemplating will provide an opportunity to men and women having high regard to civil and moral norms which form basis of a civilized society and of men and women of excellence who have established themselves as pioneers in their respective fields of endeavor, to discuss things together and find ways for creating a better society. The people in the organization will have no parochial interest and will be men and women of professional standard and integrity befitting the Institute of Civil Excellence (ICE) and the country.
The objectives of the Institute are:
To undertake research, survey, data collection, and other related activities in the field of civil and human rights.
To conduct educational and training programs for interested individuals and groups active in the concerning field.
To prepare, publish and disseminate printed or electronic materials for education, information and communication of all concerned.
To maintain a website for the pertaining back up.
To act as a resource center for researchers, resource persons, trainers, media persons, academicians and policymakers.
To bring out a bulletin for networking among concerned individuals and organizations.
To approach the government for taking corrective measures on the state of human and civil rights in the country based on the research and study conducted by the institute.
The management of the ICE will be based on a Board of Management formed and supported by the APCR. The Institute will be headed by a Director who will work in consultation with the Board of Management and an Advisory Committee comprised of academicians, advocates, activists, social workers and community leaders. The Director will execute programs and activities recommended by the Board and approved by the APCR, which will sanction an annual grant for the ICE in its budget. If required, the ICE would be affiliated to competent authorities as an academic institution for running courses and conducting research.
In order to fulfill the envisaged functions and discharge given responsibilities, the activities of the ICE will be as follows:
1. ICE as a center of Information collection and dissemination
The institute will collect and provide compiled and collated information to all concerned through regular dispatches and occasional handouts, bulletins, website, press releases and the like.
2. ICE as a center for Training
Training and orientation will be a core activity of the ICE and it will organize training programs and capsule courses for all concerned at local, regional and national levels. These training courses may also be offered as certificate / diploma courses in collaboration with recognized agencies and educational institutions. Tailor-made training will be provided for fulfilling different and versatile needs of civil and human rights’ struggle in the country.
3. Seminars and Workshops
The ICE will organize consultations, seminars and workshops for exchange of views among activists and sharing experiences of a wide range of experts and operatives.
Research in laws, trends, issues, personalities, working groups, legislative measures, functioning of government bodies and commissions, events of human rights violations, difficulties in establishing civil society, victim responses, etc will be undertaken in a systematic way and on a regular basis through the in-house researchers and outsourced experts.
The institute will publish books and training materials and ICE products in all languages prevalent in the country according to the requirement and needs of end users. These publications will be sold and distributed on subsidized or reasonable price to all concerned.
The ICE will network among like-minded organizations and experts active at local, regional, national and international levels and exchange with them information, views and experiences for strengthening civil and human rights resistance the world over.
7. APCR Resource Center
The ICE will maintain a library and resource centre rich in materials useful for activists and organizations working in the concerned field. The centre will have provisions for collection and display of books, electronic materials such as CDs, video records, etc and that of newspaper clippings, periodicals, microfilms, films, photographs and published documents. The centre will also undertake documentation of useful records such as reports of commissions, private investigations and public hearings, profiles of activists and organizations, etc. There will be a guest room for accommodating outstation researchers and other users visiting the ICE.
The said activities will be undertaken and extended in a phased manner. At the outset, the APCR will provide a place for running activities of the ICE, whether at its own premises or elsewhere having a room for library, record room, facility center, meeting room, guest room and store. Almost all the proposed activities will be gradually undertaken with steady enhancement and expansion depending upon the availability of resources. With due course of time, the ICE may have its own land and premises suiting to its versatile needs. When the ICE starts courses for interested students under any university program it will have provisions for sufficient classrooms, facilities and administrative set up for the same. In later phases chapters of the ICE may be opened in various cities of the country.
Thus, there are five obvious phases in the full development of the ICE, defined by achieving specific targets:
a. Formative Phase
This phase is conceived for the period of first five years. This phase will witness commencement and perpetuity of all activities mentioned hereinabove, although some of them may remain in the initial stage only. The APCR has already started training programs for paralegal workers in different parts of the country. Moreover, it has published a manual for such workers titled Human and Civil Rights Defender’s Resource Manual in English, Hindi and Urdu. Its translation in other languages is in process. A few seminars and workshops were organized under its auspices. A small library is working at the association’s Delhi-based office and a resourceful website has been launched. The APCR’s emerging links with other civil and human rights organizations are appearing to be worthwhile and would grow with the passage of time. The activities of the APCR during its last four years provide justification and background not only for the establishment of an institution like the one proposed here but also for its potential user base. Therefore, the APCR has resolved to establish Institute of Civil Excellence for systematization of pertaining activities and giving them a professional back up.
During the coming years, the ICE envisages to concentrate on the following programs and activities:
i) Publication of News Bulletin and Website for wider information. Both will cover on, besides the organizational matters of the ICE and APCR, day today developments and events appertained to the chosen field, studies and researches, government measures, training opportunities, future seminars and workshops, reports of activities of other organizations, and all kinds of announcements related to human rights, etc.
ii) Redesigning of courses and training schedules making them at par with academically recognized certificate and diploma courses through distance mode and establishment of study centers in different parts of the country. It is planned to hold annually one state level program in each major states of the country for initiating interested individuals in the field of civil rights. Moreover, one national workshop will be organized each year for enhancing knowledge and capacity of state level workers. Besides, one workshop will be held for ascertaining future academic needs in the field of civil resistance for upholding human rights in the country. This program will provide a base for future planning of the ICE in academic and research activities. Publication of reports on human rights situation in the country will also be undertaken on regular basis.
iii) Research will be conducted regarding various aspects of civil and human rights violation against women, minorities, scheduled castes, scheduled tribes, and other weaker sections of society.
iv) Publication of the Human and Civil Rights Defender’s Resource Manual in other languages..
v) Developing active relations with other human rights organizations and joining their existing networks for mutual cooperation and solidarity.
vi) Establishment of the Resource Center with a suitable library, facility corner (furnished with Photostat machine, computer, Internet, drinking water, working kitchen, etc), news clipping and documentation facilities, etc.
vii) Appointment of director, coordinator, research associate and assistant staffs. a. Academic Phase
This second phase will commence after 3-5 years of the beginning of the first phase. In this phase the ICE will strive for recognition of its courses by some suitable authority and launch of courses in distance mode in arrangement with any university. This phase will give the ICE its academic identity and receptivity in the concerned circles. Apart from New Delhi, study centers of the ICE will be opened in other cities as well. Suitable faculties will be engaged for executing the envisaged activities of the phase. Proper standardization of course contents and development of textbooks and reading materials will also be undertaken during this stint of the Institute.
b. Phase of Infrastructural Development
During this phase, some suitable land will be purchased and construction of a building on it will be undertaken for the realization of a full-fledged and well equipped academic and research institution in the form of ICE. A number of departments for imparting training and courses, schemes for conducting surveys and research, publication, resource center, IEC activities, etc will be executed from the envisaged premises.
c. Phase of Regional Expansion
After concentrating for some time on the initial phases, more study centers and state chapters and centers will be formed for spreading activities of the ICE in various parts of the country.
d. Phase of International Recognition
With full wing activities and useful contribution to society, international recognition will be strived for the APCR or ICE, especially in roaster status with the UN Human Rights Commission and the UNESCO.
It is evident that the entire scheme of establishing Institute of Civil Excellence (ICE) requires adequate financial resources for realizing its goals. The desired input will be made according the phase-wise requirements. However, the first phase is very crucial for a successful and promising take off; and, accordingly its resource needs calls for generous philanthropic cooperation. As per suggested plans hereinabove, the ICE’s immediate and first phase requirements are projected in the given chart.
The main financial resources of the Institute will be based on the following heads:
1. Contribution and occasional grants of the parent body, Association for Protection of Civil Rights (APCR).
2. Public donations.
3. Sales of the proceeds such as publications, data and consultancy.
4. National or international grants by organizations and agencies interested for the promotion of civil and human rights in the country.