Virtual workshop on "Vulnerability and caregiving. A human rights approach"

Momento del workshop
07 May to 08 May

Coordinators: Jorge Gracia Ibáñez (Universidade do Porto), Anabela Costa Leão (Universidade do Porto), Luísa Neto (Universidade do Porto)

Description of the meeting

The workshop aims to discuss the protection of vulnerable groups and people from a multilevel human rights approach that considers both national (namely, constitutional) and supranational, regional and universal, instruments of legal protection.

Departing from the indivisibility of human rights and the centrality of social rights to a contemporary understanding of human dignity, the workshop aims to engage in multidisciplinary discussion of the notion of vulnerability and vulnerable groups towards the possibility of protection of vulnerability by means of a universal human right to care.

The concept of vulnerability appears to be crucial to describe several social inequalities affecting people and severely compromising the full accomplishment of human rights as civilizational project. On one hand, specific problems affecting vulnerable groups and vulnerable persons require a specific consideration of the basic principle of equality and nondiscrimination. On the other hand, a human rights approach exclusively based in autonomy may impair the full recognition and enjoyment of basic human rights of vulnerable persons, thus affecting their dignity. The very existence of a fully autonomous subject must be discussed, given the inherent vulnerability of human beings and the possibility, that must be equated, that every human being becomes a “vulnerable subject” or “a caregiver” at some point of her/his life. Thus, duties and rights to care must be discussed inside, but also behind, the frontiers of vulnerable groups.

Admitting the existence of a human right to caregiving derived from human dignity, several questions arise for discussion: what should be the minimum core of such right to caregiving? Is it a universal right? Is the State the sole holder of a correspondent duty of caregiving, or can and should it be shared with the community, including the multiple “communities of belonging” of the person such as family?

Building upon a pluralistic understanding of Law that will contribute to the strengthening of an inclusive society, today's protection of fundamental rights faces challenges stemming from the tensions between unity and diversity and multiple demands for recognition. That is the case of multiple and often crossed vulnerabilities, demanding increasing protection. Moreover, these tensions (both in terms of law making and law adjudication, e.g. court adjudication), are not only visible within the socially and culturally diverse State, but also beyond its borders, due to the complex network of “internormativity” and the reality of multilevel production of Law.

Therefore, it is suggested that the discussion focus on the following topics:

  1. the indivisibility of human rights and the necessary consideration of social, economic and cultural rights as part of a “modern” understanding of human dignity;
  2. State responsibility arising from the commitment with the protection of fundamental and human rights, both internally and internationally, and its reflexes in the design of public social policies;
  3. Parallel processes of identifying vulnerable people and groups and specifying rights (elderly, disabled, children, migrants and refugees, the mentally ill ...), a path opened by such important diplomas as the Convention on the Rights of the Persons with Disabilities; simultaneously, risks and paradoxes of a fragmented protection of rights;
  4. The progressive construction of a system of multi‐level protection of fundamental and human rights, or fundamental rights in a broad sense, with the opportunities and challenges it entails, and the increasing openness to dialogue between protection systems;
  5. Concepts of “vulnerability”, “vulnerable people ” and “vulnerable groups”;
  6. relationship between vulnerability and stereotyping, regarding drafting and application of State norms;
  7. relevance of both “multiple vulnerability” and “multiple discrimination”, including intersectional discrimination; in particularly, relationship between vulnerability, caregivingand gender;
  8. justification of the existence of a human and fundamental right to caregiving, based in national constitutions and/ or in international instruments of human rights protection; once recognized, to what extent can such a human right to care be judicially enforceable?
  9. determination of the holders of correspondent duties of protection of vulnerability and of caregiving: only public powers, or also social groups and individuals?
  10. Determining the costs ‐ financial, administrative – and limits of the implementation of public policies to protect vulnerability, in a scenario of crisis of the Social State.

Our experience in Oñati

Hay algo simbólico en el hecho de haber celebrado en plena pandemia por el COVID-19, en tiempos de confinamiento y distancia social obligada, un workshop online para reflexionar acerca de la vulnerabilidad y el derecho al cuidado. Sinceramente, hubo momentos en que pensamos que todo el trabajo de la organización de un workshop, junto con el empeño y la ilusión que se pone en las cosas que se consideran valiosas y relevantes, iba a perderse sin remedio. Paradójicamente, y una vez decididos por versión virtual, el momento no podría ser más significativo porque si algo ha puesto de manifiesto esta pandemia es la vulnerabilidad universal de los seres humanos y la necesidad de cuidado que deriva de esta condición.

Quizás hayamos perdido algunas cosas en el camino de la transformación digital, algo del calor humano que junto con la excelencia científica emana de esa comunidad académica internacional construida en Oñati desde hace tantos años alrededor de la Sociología jurídica. Algunas de esas cosas tozudamente analógicas que hacen de las visitas a Oñati una experiencia siempre estimulante tanto intelectual como personalmente. Pero tenemos la impresión de que con la versión online del workshop hemos conseguido un estimulante intercambio de ideas y mantener el rigor intelectual del encuentro.

Como es obvio, nada de ello habría sido posible sin el incansable trabajo de las personas que forman el instituto ni la capacidad de adaptación de los y las colegas que han participado en este encuentro aportando su trabajo y conocimiento al diálogo y a la reflexión compartida. Quede aquí constancia de nuestro más sincero agradecimiento. Hemos resistido y constatado una vez más que, junto con la vulnerabilidad, la capacidad de adaptación forma parte de la condición humana. No nos parece un mal balance para esta nueva experiencia.

* * *

There is something symbolic to having held, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, in times of confinement and mandatory social distance, an online workshop to reflect on vulnerability and the right to care. Honestly, there were moments in which we thought that all the work that is encompassed by organizing a workshop, along with the effort and the excitement that are put into all that is considered valuable and relevant, was going to be irredeemably lost. Ironically, once that we had made up our minds to do a virtual workshop, the moment could not be more significant, because this pandemic has drawn our attention to the universal vulnerability of human beings and the subsequent need for care.

We may have lost some things on the way toward digital transformation, some of the human warmth that, along with scientific excellence, emanates from that international academic community built in Oñati around sociology of law. Some of those stubbornly analogic things that make visits to Oñati such enthralling experiences, intellectually as well as personally. But we have the impression that, with the online workshop, we have achieved a refreshing exchange of ideas, while maintaining the intellectual rigour of the meeting.

Obviously, none of that would have been possible without the tireless work of the people who form the Institute and the adaptability of the colleagues who have participated in this workshop, contributing their work and their knowledge to the shared discussion and reflection. Let me put on record our most heartfelt gratitude. We have resisted and, once more, we have witnessed that, together with vulnerability, adaptability is part of the human condition. Not bad for this new experience.

For more information: 

Workshop Coordination Team

Avenida de la Universidad, 8
Apartado 28
20560 Oñati (Gipuzkoa) - Spain
T: +34 943 78... Ver teléfono