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Human Rights and Foreign Policy Analysis  

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.

Article

Human Dignity in International Relations  

Salvador Santino F. Regilme Jr.

The literature on dignity in international politics can be analytically evaluated based on three key themes: (a) historical, conceptual, and political underpinnings; (b) international law and global governance; and (c) the global political economy. Although discussions of human dignity within these three themes draw on varied disciplines (philosophy, political theory, political science, law, and history), they demonstrate a shared purpose in investigating the nature of human dignity and its implications to understanding individuals and political orders amid increasing global interdependence. Human rights scholarship has been a firmly established research agenda in international relations (IR) since the end of the Cold War, but the notion of human dignity has yet to gain traction as a key research topic on its own beyond its peripheral association with the human rights literature. Dignity may be a highly contested concept, but its mere invocation in policy and scholarly debates attracts so much moral appeal and intellectual curiosity. If the core normative task of IR research pertains to the improvement of the human condition (and its relationship to global humanity and the ecosystem), then human dignity should feature as a core object of analytic inquiry in the future.

Article

Women’s Rights as Human Rights  

Jutta Joachim

For centuries, women have been struggling for the recognition of their rights. Women’s rights are still being dismissed by United Nations (UN) human rights bodies and even governments, despite the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sex. It was not until the 1993 UN World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna, Austria that states began to recognize women’s rights as human rights. However, this institutional change cannot solely be credited to the UN, but more importantly to the work of international women’s organizations. According to the social movement theory, these organizations have been permeating intergovernmental structures and, with the help of their constituents and experienced leaders, framing women’s rights as human rights in different ways throughout time. It is through mobilizing resources and seizing political opportunities that women’s rights activists rationalize how discrimination and exclusion resulted from gendered traditions, and that societal change is crucial in accepting women’s rights as fully human. But seeing as there are still oppositions to the issue of women’s rights as human rights, further research still needs to be conducted. Some possible venues for research include how well women’s rights as human rights travel across different institutions, violence against women, how and in what way women’s rights enhance human rights, and the changes that have taken place in mainstream human rights and specialized women’s rights institutions since the late 1980s as well as their impact.

Article

Responding to Refugee and Humanitarian Crises  

Daniel Warner and Georg von Kalckreuth

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.

Article

Human Rights: Effectiveness of International and Regional Mechanisms  

Par Engstrom

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.

Article

The Right to Health  

Audrey R. Chapman

The right to health and health services is generally framed as the right to the highest attainable standard of health. Like other human rights, the right to health confers to all people specific entitlements and imposes duties on governments to protect and promote them. It reflects a broadened sense of governmental responsibility for the welfare of its citizens and a more inclusive understanding of human rights. All countries, including the United States, have ratified at least one binding human rights convention that includes a provision on the right to health. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the United Nations more than six decades ago, has given rise to a series of international human rights instruments that legally obligate states to implement their provisions. The two most important of these are the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Despite substantial progress, a number of issues still need to be addressed for the realization of the right to health, such as the lack of political commitment on the part of many states with regard to implementation and the weakness of the international human rights system. Furthermore, many states which have ratified international or regional human rights instruments that recognize a right to health or have relevant constitutional provisions still do not invest the necessary resources or apply human rights standards to the framing of health policies.

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.