Given the systematic threats facing humanity, there is an urgent need for new thinking about the human rights project. The most prevalent form of global abuse exists in the form of violence against women and children. Sexual violence has been considered the most pervasive, yet least recognized human rights, abuse in the world. Equally prevalent among the modern sources of threats to physical integrity rights are the pervasive practice of torture and the issue of poverty and the threats it poses to human dignity and human rights. Individual civil-political rights and the rights of minorities, including women, ethnic and religious minorities, and indigenous people have been protected at times and violated at other times by states. Moreover, some observers argue that group rights should be properly understood as an extension of the already recognized collective rights to self-determination of people. But this broad spectrum of human rights violations can be organized into two categories: domestic and international. The domestic sources include both local and national sources of human rights abuses, and international sources entail international and global dimensions. These analyses are interconnected and reinforcing, but they can be contradictory at times. Understanding such complex interrelations is a necessary condition for describing factors and processes leading to abuses. In an applied sense, this understanding is essential for suggesting how we should proceed with the protection of basic human rights. Although there is agreement on the most pressing problems of human suffering, there is no consensus over the answers.
Ronald C. Slye
Domestic courts play an important role in the adjudication of international law, including international human rights law. The relationship between international and domestic law has often been characterized as a continuum between monism and dualism. In a monist system, international law is automatically a part of domestic law, and a conflict between the two is resolved in favor of international law. In a dualist system, domestic law is superior to international law within the domestic legal system, while international law is superior to domestic law within the international legal system. A conflict between domestic law and international law is thus not always resolved in the same way in both systems. In addition, one of the areas with the most active use of international law in a domestic legal system is under a theory of universal jurisdiction. Universal jurisdiction most often involves both the incorporation of international law into a domestic legal system and the assertion outward (extraterritorially) of domestic judicial system. Universal jurisdiction arose initially in the context of criminal prosecutions, but is also found to some extent in civil litigation, particularly in the United States. Under the principle of universal jurisdiction, a state may assert jurisdiction over an offender regardless of the nationality of the offender or victim, the place of commission of the wrongful act, or any other link to the state asserting jurisdiction.
William F. Felice
Economic rights refer to the right to property, the right to work, and the right to social security. Social rights are those entitlements necessary for an adequate standard of living, including rights to food, housing, health, and education. Since economic rights have a social basis, and social rights have an economic basis, both classifications are considered of equal importance and interdependent. The intellectual and social dimensions of economic and social rights have evolved from at least four spheres: religion, philosophy, politics, and law. Throughout history, individuals and groups debated and accepted obligations to help the needy and prevent suffering. There were both religious and secular dimensions to these undertakings. Early human rights advocates moreover proclaimed an interdependence between civil and political rights and economic and social rights and criticized those who made too sharp a distinction between them. A central debate over economic and social rights relates to their legal validity. Some scholars argue that by their very nature, economic and social rights are not “justiciable.” Another issue is the link between economic and social rights in meeting basic human needs and the alleviation of global poverty. The right to development is also important in debates on economic and social rights, as it attempts to correct the economic distortions left by the legacy of colonial domination. Perhaps the most promising new approach to economic and social rights is Amartya Sen’s capabilities approach, which focuses on what individuals need for adequate functioning.
Henry F. Carey
Economic, social, and cultural rights (ESCRs) emerged in the twentieth century as the set of “second-generation” rights after civil and political rights (CPRs). ESCRs represent the “equality” phase of human rights after the “liberty” aspect of CPRs. Despite having achieved legal respect and parity with all other CPRs, ESCRs are often perceived as having less legal clarity and required compliance in practice. ESCRs, however, have a substantial doctrine for many rights of progressive development or realization. In addition to progressive development of all the rights in the 1966 International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), the Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Committee, which explains and monitors that treaty, has established a set of core obligations of states. Despite the problems inherent in the process of monitoring ESCRs, there are three major institutions which review the state of ESCRs in the world today: the United Nations (UN), states parties, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Additionally, the general direction of the literature on ESCRs is geared towards implementation and promotion of these rights. However, there is a tendency to examine ESCR violations that have a link to CPRs or to UN peace projects. There have also been various initiatives affecting second- and especially third-generation rights, such as the protection of indigenous peoples.
Feminism has provided some new perspectives to the discourse on human rights over the years. Contemporary feminist scholarship has sought to critique the liberalism on which the conception of formal “equality” in the international human rights laws has been derived on a number of grounds. Two of the most pertinent critiques for this discussion are: the androcentric construction of human rights; and the perpetuation of the false dichotomy between the public and private spheres. This exploration of the relationship between liberalism and women’s human rights constitutes a significant shift in which many feminists had realized that the emphasis on “sameness” with men was limited in its utility. This shift rejected the “sameness” principle of the liberal feminists and brought gender-specific abuses into the mainstream of human rights theory and practice. By gender mainstreaming international institutions and future human rights treaties, specific women’s rights could be defined as human rights more generally. Feminists have since extended their critique of androcentrism and the public–private dichotomy to the study of gender inequalities and economic globalization, which is an important systemic component of structural indivisibility. In particular, the broader women’s human rights movement has come to realize that civil-political liberties and socioeconomic rights are inextricable, though there is disagreement over the exact nature of this relationship.
Nadine El-Enany and Eiko R. Thielemann
Forced migrations, as well as the related issues of refugees and asylum, profoundly impact the relationship between the countries of origin and the countries of destination. Traditionally, the essential quality of a refugee was seen to be their presence outside of their own country as a result of political persecution. However, the historical evolution of the definition of a refugee has gradually become more restricted and defined. Commentators have challenged the current refugee protection regime along two principal lines. The first is idealist in nature and entails the argument that the refugee definition as contained in the 1951 Refugee Convention is not sufficiently broad and thus fails to protect all those individuals deserving of protection. The second line of argument is a realist one, taking a more pragmatic approach in addressing the insufficiencies of the Convention. Its advocates emphasize the importance of making refugee protection requirements more palatable to states, the actors upon which we rely to provide refugees with protection. With regard to the question of how to design more effective burden-sharing institutions, the literature has traditionally focused on finding ways to equalize refugee responsibilities directly by seeking to equalize the number of asylum seekers and refugees that states have to deal with.
Kurt Mills and Cian O’Driscoll
In contrast with humanitarian access or the provision of humanitarian assistance, humanitarian intervention is commonly defined as the threat or use of force by a state to prevent or end widespread and grave violations of the fundamental human rights of individuals other than its own citizens, without the permission of the state within whose territory force is applied. In support of their cause, advocates of humanitarian intervention often draw upon and reference the authority of the notional “just war.” The four main ways by which humanitarian intervention has been connected to the idea of the just war relate to the ideals of self-determination, punishment, responsibility, and conditional sovereignty. For a humanitarian intervention to be considered legitimate, there must be a just cause for intervention; the use of force must be a last resort; it must meet the standard of proportionality; and there must be a good likelihood that the use of force will contribute to a positive humanitarian outcome. The historical practice of humanitarian intervention can be traced from the nineteenth century to the recognition of the Responsibility to Protect by the World Summit in 2005 and its application in Darfur. Major conceptual debates surrounding humanitarian intervention include the problematic relation between sovereignty and human rights, the legal status of intervention, the issue of multilateralism versus unilateralism, and the quest for criteria for intervention.
Kevin K W Ip
Distributive justice, in its broadest sense, is about how benefits and burdens ought to be distributed among a set of individuals as a matter of right and entitlement. Political philosophers have traditionally assumed that principles of distributive justice apply only within the bounds of a given political community. However, this assumption has been rigorously challenged in recent years, as evidenced by the recent work on global distributive justice. The focus of this article includes theoretical approaches to the problem of global poverty, special obligations among fellow nationals, and global inequality. In addition to these theoretical debates, students of global distributive justice have paid considerable attention to how certain facts about the global domain might affect the grounds of their normative judgments. Therefore, it is important to focus on the application of distributive justice to certain global issues. These issues include reparations for historic injustice, climate change, transnational trade, and natural-resources ownership. These issues are inevitably global in scope and they tend to have profound impacts on the well-being of individuals around the world.
Pat Lauderdale and Nicholas D. Natividad
The United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues estimates that there are over 370 million indigenous people spread across 70 countries worldwide. Practicing unique traditions, they retain social, cultural, economic, and political characteristics that are distinct from those of the dominant societies in which they live. Dialogue and political negotiations with indigenous peoples has a long history that began at least a half a millennium ago when the notion of an inter-national” community and the concept of the nation-state became dominant. Since that time, the concepts of sovereignty, self-determination, rule of law, and human rights have led to the establishment of the frameworks and structures of organization that are now referred to collectively as modern international law. But unlike most modern international human rights law, which emphasizes rights of the individual, indigenous peoples generally think in terms of collective rather than individual rights. Because indigenous peoples’ “law” suggests the importance of collective rights, it renders a culture of responsibility and accountability to the collective. At present, international indigenous rights are a type of superficial bandage, giving the appearance of propriety to the crisis faced by the hegemonic “international system of states.” Therefore, indigenous rights standards propagated by organizations such as the UN currently are largely symbolic. However, they could potentially lead to real change if they are coupled with widespread acknowledgment of the fact that diverse societies exist throughout the world with different forms of social organization and diverse conceptions of law.
Tony Evans and Alex Kirkup
The literature on the relationship between globalization and human rights has laid out three responses to the economic, political, and social transformations of globalization within the human rights. First, some scholars consider globalization as complementary to the progressive realization of universal human rights on a global scale. They cite the extension and deepening of the formal human rights regime through international institutions and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and the emergence of new private, corporate forms of authority. Second, others perceive of globalization as creating substantial challenges for the realization of universal human rights on a global scale. Such scholars are engaged in criticism of the existing institutional arrangements of the formal human rights regime. They highlight the way in which human rights act as a form of power over people, especially where different ways of life are brought into contact and conflict through transformations associated with globalization. Furthermore, they reject the idea of the progressive realization of human rights as some form of an inevitable unfolding of history or as a singularly desired end point, and instead acknowledge conflicting conceptions of rights as expressions of social struggle A third group of scholars are engaged in the critique of the conception and function of human rights within globalization. From this viewpoint, globalization reveals that ideas of universal and indivisible human rights, along with their progressive realization, are flawed and need to be replaced by more substantive concepts. The critiques stem from the perspectives of neo-Marxism, postpositivism, feminism, and cultural relativism.
Shannon Lindsey Blanton and David L. Cingranelli
Foreign policy analysis emerged as a subfield ino the late 1950s and early 1960s, when scholars began to focus on substate factors and on the decision making process in evaluating foreign policy. It was during this time that the United States embarked on an effort to establish internationally recognized legal standards aimed at protecting individual human rights. The United Nations Charter and the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UNDHR) made human rights promotion the responsibility of all member nations. But it was only in the late 1970s that human rights became an important component of quantitative foreign policy analysis. Numerous developments, including the Helsinki Accords of 1975 and the International Human Rights Covenants in 1976, helped elevate human rights concerns in the U.S. foreign policy making process. The scholarly literature on the subject revolves around three key issues: whether governments should make the promotion of human rights a goal of their foreign policies; whether the increasing use of human rights language in foreign policy rhetoric has been translated by the United States and other countries into public policies that have been consistent with that rhetoric; and whether the foreign policies of OECD governments actually have led to improved human rights practices in less economically developed countries. While scholars have produced a considerable amount of work that examines the various influences on the policy making process—whether at the individual, institutional, or societal levels of analysis—relatively few of them have focused on human rights perse.
As a focus of academic inquiry, human rights gained legitimacy only after World War II. While the subject received consistent attention within the field of international law, greater attention from other disciplines became more significant in the mid-1960s. Yet, it was after the Cold War, in the era of globalization, that human rights research became a well-entrenched interdisciplinary field. Even though no encompassing history of human rights was yet to be found in the late twentieth century, many important historical human rights studies had already appeared. Until the Cold War, the study of international relations had been grounded in efforts to integrate political theory and history. As ideological confrontation heightened during the Cold War, history became more descriptive, formalistic, and divorced from political theory, or from any normative or political purpose. With the end of the Cold War, the advance of globalization, the war on terror, and the current meltdown of the global economy, the past 20 years have sent a succession of electric shocks through the nervous system of the international order. The sense of being buffeted by unpredictable events stimulated new efforts to comprehend the direction of history, or, alternatively, to assert its timeless truths. Despite a significant body of enriching historical scholarship, however, it remains the case that both history and historiography have been widely overlooked, not only in the burgeoning human rights academic field, but also in most disciplines within the social sciences.
The modern state’s role vis-à-vis human rights has always been ambiguous. States are the basic guarantors of human rights protections, just as they can be brutal violators of human rights. This basic tension is rooted in the very notion of statehood, and it pervades much of the literature on human rights. As the central organizing principle in international relations, state sovereignty would seem to be antithetical to human rights. Sovereignty, after all, is ultimately about having the last word; it is virtually synonymous with the principle of territorial non-interference. Meanwhile, humanitarian intervention would at first glance seem to be a contravention of state sovereignty. Yet not all observers interpret human rights pressures as a challenge to state sovereignty. Modern states can be highly adaptive, no less so when confronted with human rights demands. One of the principal, if overlooked, ways in which states have adapted to rising global human rights pressures is by creating new institutions. This is reflected in the formation of national human rights institutions (NHRIs): permanent state bodies created to promote and protect human rights domestically. These state institutions are remarkable due to their rapid and widespread proliferation around the world, the extent to which they sometimes represent a strategy of appeasement but nonetheless can be consequential, and their potential for domesticating international human rights standards.
Human rights education (HRE) is a set of educational and pedagogical learning methods aimed at informing people and training them in their human rights. The earliest foundation of HRE is found under Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948, which guarantees the right to education. HRE became a widespread concept in the 1990s with the resolution of the United Nations General Assembly in 1994 on the UN Decade for Human Rights Education from 1995 to 2004. With this decade, all UN member states agreed to undertake measures to promote and incorporate HRE in the formal and non-formal education sectors. However, toward the end of the UN Decade it was clear that only a few governments had complied with these requests. Instead, most of the promotional work for HRE was done by non-governmental organizations (NGOs). NGOs, foundations, academic institutions, and international organizations have edited and published most of the literature in the field of HRE over the past four decades. Publication figures estimate over 2000 publications since 1965, and the number is growing, particularly in the non-English speaking world. Most materials focus on a particular human rights issue such as gender, children, torture, or freedom rights. In the future, HRE is expected to be more local and community based as well as more target group–orientated.
The issue of human rights presents a dilemma for the discipline of international relations (IR) in general and the literature on international institutions in particular. Since international human rights institutions are primarily, but not exclusively, concerned with how states treat their own citizens, they seek to empower individual citizens and groups vis-à-vis their own governments. A major concern is whether such institutions make a difference for the protection and promotion of human rights. This concern has spawned a series of research questions and some major lines of enquiry. The study of human rights regimes has developed at the interface between IR and international law, along with the norms and practices of global human rights institutions. In addition, human rights has been institutionalized globally through the United Nations system and the connections between the development over time of international human rights institutions on the one hand, and their relative effectiveness in shaping human rights behavior on the other. The development and impact of international human rights law and policy have also been influenced by regionalism. While the research on human rights regimes has provided important insights into the role of institutions in narrowing the gap between the rhetoric and practice of human rights, there are crucial areas that need further scholarly attention, such as the domestic actors and institutions that act and could potentially act as “compliance constituencies” and conduits of domestic implementation linking international human rights norms to domestic political and legal institutions and actors.
Nadejda K. Marinova
Trafficking and smuggling in persons is a serious crime and a grave violation of human rights. In the world today, there are more slaves than at any other time in human history—these present-day slaves are the victims of human smuggling and human trafficking. Human trafficking refers to the trade of humans, most commonly for the purpose of forced labor, sexual slavery, or commercial sexual exploitation for the trafficker or others. This may encompass providing a spouse in the context of forced marriage, or the extraction of organs or tissues, including for surrogacy and ova removal. Every year, thousands of men, women and children fall into the hands of traffickers, in their own countries and abroad. Almost every country in the world is affected by trafficking, whether as a country of origin, transit or destination for victims. The 1980s saw human trafficking emerge on the political agenda of states as well as of supranational and international organizations. By the early 1990s, human smuggling—which is extremely important in illegal migration—has prompted policy attention. The academic scholarship on human smuggling focuses on the factors for the increase of trafficking, the structure and organization of smuggler networks, and on the question of whether smuggled individuals are victims or perpetrators of a crime.
Transnational organizing by groups dedicated to promoting the rights of gay men and lesbians is not a particularly new phenomenon, though it remained rare in the postwar era. It was not until the advent of the sexual liberation movement in the late 1960s and early 1970s that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) issues became more prominent. Moreover, despite their diversity, these transnational groups and networks have been able to speak with an increasingly unified voice and have begun to set out a relatively coherent vision for global LGBT human rights organizing. Over the past two decades, transnational LGBT human rights activists have become increasingly successful in getting their voices heard and demands met within prominent international organizations such as the EU and UN. This success, however, has varied dramatically across organizations. Perhaps not surprisingly given the Western origins and biases of transnational LGBT movements and human rights principles, as well as the greater levels of tolerance towards homosexuality in the region, LGBT rights organizations have had their greatest successes in Europe. Generally speaking, however, there has been a significant expansion of LGBT rights over the past 20 years. Yet despite these dramatic developments, the study of LGBT politics has remained peripheral to most fields within the discipline of politics, though there has been an empirical turn in LGBT research.
Monica W. Varsanyi
When it comes to immigration policy, nation-states generally have the power to exclude, admit, or expel noncitizens from their territories. On the other hand, subnational jurisdictions have more often been given the task of formulating and implementing immigrant policy, which entails the incorporation of immigrants into local communities. This division of labor has recently come under intense scrutiny. The local and state politics of immigration and immigrant integration in the United States has been documented in the scholarly literature, focusing on topics such as California’s Proposition 187, the disparity between the national benefits and local costs of immigration, and the increasing role played by nongovernmental organizations and other nonstate actors in the integration of immigrants at the local scale. Four categories of local immigrant and immigration policy have been studied: policies that arise from the devolution of select powers over noncitizens; grassroots policies on areas such as education and human trafficking; policies that are more explicitly about a politics of immigration control; and policies that engage with a politics of immigrant integration. However, there are still avenues that require further investigation so as to better understand the growing involvement of subnational governments in the formulation and implementation of immigrant and immigration policy. For example, more research is needed in which policy outcome is taken as the dependent variable and to document and understand the dynamics of local immigrant integration and immigration policy formation in developing countries.
Truth commissions are temporary institutions that are tasked with investigating patterns of political violence under a prior regime as part of a process of political change. In the past, truth commissions were generally seen as a “second best” alternative in contexts where prosecuting past abuses was deemed unrealistic. Today, they are regarded as important tools for pursuing a wide array of goals, from democratization and reconciliation to human rights protection and individual healing. Early scholarship on the development of truth commissions focused on comparative democratization and on typologies that could be used to predict various transitional justice outcomes. More recently, scholars in the field of international relations have undertaken qualitative and quantitative studies in hopes of understanding what is driving the development of truth commissions. However, opinions differ as to the causes, consequences, and moral implications of truth commissions. Some attribute the proliferation of truth commissions to the growing strength of human rights norms and advocacy, whereas others argue that they merely function to manage the balance of power in transitional contexts, or serve as a basis for advancing values such as justice, democracy, and peace. These debates seem to have only intensified as truth commission scholarship continues to grow. One interesting pattern is that a number of scholars, have questioned the effectiveness of truth commissions in satisfying their own claims to investigate the “truth” about past abuses.
Georg von Kalckreuth and Daniel Warner
The term “refugee crisis” is used throughout the literature to refer to situations where large numbers of refugees or displaced persons more generally are present, whereas “humanitarian crisis” refers to situations where the lives, health, safety or well-being of a large number of people are at substantial risk. The term “complex emergency” is defined as “a humanitarian crisis typically characterized by extensive violence and loss of life, massive displacements of people, widespread damage to societies and economies, and hindrance of humanitarian assistance by security risks and political and military constraints.” A typical complex emergency consists of one or more humanitarian and refugee crises, regardless of their actual causes, and necessitates an international and United Nations system-wide response because of its complexity. Humanitarian and refugee crises have often generated international response efforts that were intended to help affected individuals, alleviate their suffering, and restore their situation from the plight of crisis to some level of normality. In addition to the UN and its specialized agencies, international responses bring together a large and diverse set of actors such as the International Committee of the Red Cross and its national societies, national and international nongovernmental organizations, and the governments of third states. Their responses have drawn scholarly interest, especially after World War II. However, the literature on international responses to humanitarian and refugee crises does not offer a comprehensive and exhaustive scholarly treatment of the issue. This is an obvious gap that needs to be addressed in future research.