A Capability-Oriented View of Human Rights: A Case Study of The Mining Community of La Oroya-Peru

Valencia, Areli (2010). "A Capability-Oriented View of Human Rights: A Case Study of The Mining Community of La Oroya-Peru" Paper presented at the 7th annual conference of the HDCA, 21-23 September 2010, Amman, Jordan.

This paper introduces my dissertation proposal to obtain a doctoral degree in Law and Society at the Faculty of Law, University of Victoria - Canada. It is based on the study of the mining community of La Oroya -Peru. La Oroya is an Andean community that has 88 years of mining tradition. This history has deeply transformed peoples’ lives and social relationships. Over the last 10 years, medical research has revealed a high level of environmental toxicity in La Oroya and the potential long-term effects on people’s health, especially in children. Despite this fact, many citizens of La Oroya tend to place gainful employment over the protection of community health. My dissertation seeks to provide a holistic understanding of this tension by examining the historical and socio-economic factors inherent in the community that have placed people in the difficult position of prioritizing work and sacrificing their long-term community health. This creates unfortunate trade-offs between these two essential aspects of human well-being: the protection of health vs. securing their livelihood. The theoretical framework of my dissertation bridges the discourses of human rights and capabilities in order to provide a more comprehensive understanding of root causes, processes and outcomes in terms of human rights’ violations. My goal is to design a ‘capability-oriented view of the human rights’ framework that is appropriately suited to explaining the current tension between the right to work and the right to health in La Oroya. In methodological terms, this framework proposes to use the “voices” of the people as a direct window into local knowledge, experience and the identification of valuable capabilities for this community.
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