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Human Rights in Latin America  

James C. Franklin

The systematic study of human rights came into its own in the 1980s on the heels of expanded efforts by human rights organizations, the U.S. Congress, and the Carter administration to respond to human rights abuses. Latin America was a primary target of these efforts and many of the early studies on human rights focused on this region. Here, an early literature on human rights formed around the practical question of whether U.S. foreign aid allocations were steered away from human rights violators, as the law required. The literature brought some of the first attempts to measure human rights violations systematically, and several of these scholars moved on to broader questions about what caused human rights abuses and on global efforts to stop them. This included analyses of threat perceptions, human rights movements, foreign policy, naming and shaming, and transitional justice. Some of the key theories in this literature were developed, at least in part, by Latin Americanists and a lot of early empirical application of the theories focused on this region. Over time, this literature has become increasingly global, and thus earlier research on Latin America greatly influenced the broader literature on human rights. Alongside the evolution of the scholarly literature, the nature of human rights abuses in Latin America has also changed. After the widespread democratization of the region, abuses shifted from those primarily targeted at political opposition to actions targeted at socially marginalized individuals. This suggests an important new topic for researchers.

Article

The Institutions of International Society  

Tonny Brems Knudsen

The “fundamental” or “primary” institutions of international society, among them sovereignty, diplomacy, international law, great power management, the balance of power, trade, and environmental stewardship, have been eagerly discussed and researched in the discipline of international relations (IR), at the theoretical, meta-theoretical, and empirical levels. Generations of scholars associated with not only the English School, but also liberalism and constructivism, have engaged with the “institutions of international society,” as they were originally called by Martin Wight and Hedley Bull in their attempt to develop a historically and sociologically informed theory of international relations. The fact that intense historical, theoretical, and empirical investigations have uncovered new institutional layers, dynamics, and complexities, and thus opened new challenging questions rather than settling the matter is part of its attraction. In the 1960s and 1970s, the early exponents of the English School theorized fundamental institutions as historical pillars of contemporary international society and its element of order. At the turn of the 21st century, this work was picked up by Kal Holsti and Barry Buzan, who initiated a renaissance of English School institutionalism, which specified the institutional levels of international society and discussed possibilities for institutional change. Meanwhile, liberal and constructivist scholars made important contributions on fundamental institutions in key engagements with English School theory on the subject in the late 1980s. These contributions and engagements have informed the most recent wave of (interdisciplinary) scholarship on the subject, which has theorized the room for fundamental institutional change and the role of international organizations in relation to the fundamental institutions of international society.

Article

The Right to Development  

Daniel J. Whelan

The right to development is an internationally recognized human right that entitles every human person and all peoples to participate in, contribute to, and enjoy economic, social, cultural, civil, and political development. It is a right held both by individual human persons and all peoples. The right was enshrined in the Declaration on the Right to Development, adopted by the United Nations (UN) General Assembly in December 1986. It has since been reiterated as indivisible with all other human rights in scores of UN resolutions and summit outcome documents, most notably the 2030 Agenda for Development, adopted by consensus in 2015. The right to development entails a variety of obligations on states (at the domestic and international levels), regional actors, non-state actors (e.g., transnational corporations), and international organizations. Since 2019, the UN Human Rights Council’s Intergovernmental Working Group on the Right to Development has been discussing a draft Convention on the Right to Development to codify these obligations. Since it first came under discussion at the UN in the 1970s, the right to development has consistently generated debate and controversy among scholars and governments, which has frustrated the formation of a consensus around both conceptual issues (the nature and scope of such a right and how it is defined) and practical considerations (the extent of obligations, who holds them, and challenges of monitoring and implementation). There are those, especially (but not exclusively) in the Global South, who view the right to development as rightfully prioritizing the international duty to cooperate, which is a prerequisite for, first, the realization of economic, social, and cultural rights, and then of civil and political rights. This duty obligates developed countries to provide economic, technological, and other resources to developing states, free of conditionalities. In contrast, although generally agreeing that there are important “soft” obligations for development, skeptics, especially (but not exclusively) in the Global North, are wary of making such aid and assistance obligatory, and they are concerned that the right to development may be (or has been) used to justify curtailing especially civil and political rights in the name of “development.” They instead argue for a “human rights approach to development” that entails national-level commitments to good governance, transparency, accountability, and respect for all human rights in the development process.