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 and the State
Human Rights and History
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.
Clark, Septima Poinsette
Brenda K. J. Crawley
Septima Poinsetta Clark (1898–1987) is well-known for her citizenship schools, literacy training, voting and civil rights activism, and community, political, and social services.
Hamer, Fannie Lou
Sadye L. M. Logan
Fannie Lou Hamer was a civil rights activist working for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). She dedicated her life to community organizing and the fight for human and civil rights. Hamer was also the co-founder of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party.
Peter J. Dixon, Luke Moffett, and Adriana Rudling
The devastation brought by war leaves behind irreparable loss and destruction. Yet over the past 100 years there has been a concerted effort by states, both within their territory and following conflicts with other states, to resolve the past through reparations. As a legal and political tool, reparations can affirm values in a postconflict society through recognising suffering and responsibility, as well as helping those most affected by the conflict to cope with their loss. However, the scale of harm and damage of war may devastate a state’s capacity to redress all victims, and states may have more pressing priorities to reconstruct and encourage development. While the guns have been silenced, the motivations and ideologies that fueled and justified violence may continue, politicising debates over which victims are deserving of reparation or absolving the responsibility of certain actors, causing reparations to be delayed or dropped. Where reparations are made, furthermore, assessments of their effectiveness in meeting their goals are both challenging and necessary. This article addresses these issues, providing a snapshot of the key debates in the area, the continuing gaps, and the need for further research.
Human Rights: Effectiveness of International and Regional Mechanisms
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.
Human Rights and Activism in Theater and Performance Studies
Elizabeth W. Son
A robust body of theater and performance studies scholarship examines the interplay between human rights, activism, and performance. These works tend to focus on gross human rights violations and highlight the interplay between political action and artistic works in grappling with histories of violence such as crimes against humanity. The studies range from investigations of the protests against the “disappearance” of dissidents during the “Dirty War” in Argentina, the performative dimensions of the South African Truth Commission, water rights of Ghanaians, and communal courts trying crimes of genocide in Rwanda, to artistic works addressing Japanese military sexual slavery, among others. Central to these discussions are questions around the politics of space, embodiment, the performativity of violence and identity, the politics of memory, and the ethics of research.
Richard Wolff and Karen Dodge
This entry discusses migrant workers in the United States and the unique circumstances and conditions they face. Included in the discussion are social problems faced by migrants with respect to health, housing, working conditions, child labor, and education. Policy issues are addressed, including relevant national, international, and corporate laws. Migrant patterns, demographics, and definitions are presented. Finally, social work programs, responses, and interventions are identified.
Human Rights Education
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.
Human Rights Education
A. Kayum Ahmed
Human rights education (HRE) can be described as a tool for popularizing and giving effect to the universal human rights regime. The United Nations (UN) defines HRE as (a) acquiring knowledge about human rights and the skills to exercise these rights, (b) developing values, attitudes, and beliefs that support and reinforce human rights; and (c) defending and advancing human rights through behavior and action. HRE is therefore an ideological instrument deployed as a tactic to inspire agency and activism, primarily as a counterbalance to state power. HRE as tactics is used to denote the education and training of individuals and groups working toward claiming certain protections for themselves or on behalf of those on the margins of society. This typology encompasses the range of legal, advocacy, and policy tools available within human rights frameworks to uphold and protect the rights of individuals and communities. But it is also important to recognize that human rights discourses can been appropriated by certain states to strengthen their sovereign power. HRE as sovereignty acknowledges that states, as well as corporations and far-right civil society groups, can appropriate human rights language in order to reinforce power and legitimacy. States who engage in HRE as sovereignty deliberately employ human rights language with the aim of constructing a self-serving narrative that entrenches power or legitimizes their behavior and actions. HRE as sovereignty characterizes the appropriation of HRE to entrench power through the creation of an official, immutable narrative embedded in human rights language.
Rights-Based Framework and Social Work
The past few years have seen a surge in efforts to incorporate rights-based approaches in social work practice. This rise has been spearheaded by a growing awareness that human rights can reduce or eradicate poverty and injustice while advancing human dignity and social welfare. Professional Codes of Ethics around the world maintain social workers’ responsibilities to uphold human rights. However, few rights-based approaches to social work practice have been developed. This encyclopedia entry introduces the concept of rights-based approaches, presents new models of rights-based social work, reviews the rights-based principles for social work practice of human dignity, nondiscrimination, participation, transparency, and accountability, and discusses how this framework can be applied to various practice settings and populations.
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.
Measuring Violations of Human Rights Standards
Mark Gibney, Linda Cornett, Peter Haschke, Reed M. Wood, and Daniel Arnon
Although every violation of international human rights law standards is both deplorable and illegal, one of the major advances in the social sciences has been the development of measures of comparative state practice. The oldest of these is the Political Terror Scale (PTS), which provides an ordinal measure of physical integrity violations carried out by governments or those associated with the state. Providing data from the mid-1970s to the present, the PTS scores the human rights practices of more than 190 countries on a scale of 1–5, with 1 representing “best practices” and 5 indicating gross and systematic violations. There are two different sources for these scores: U.S. State Department Country Reports on Human Rights Practices and the Amnesty International Annual Report. Although human rights have traditionally been associated only with the state, individuals can also be denied human rights protection by nonstate actors. To measure this, the Societal Violence Scale has been created to analyze three sources of physical integrity violations: the individual, corporate or criminal gang activity, and armed groups.
The Politics of Digital (Human) Rights
Ben Wagner, Andy Sanchez, Marie-Therese Sekwenz, Sofie Dideriksen, and Dave Murray-Rust
Basic human rights, like freedom of expression, freedom of the press, and privacy, are being radically transformed by new technologies. The manifestation of these rights in online spaces is known as “digital rights,” which can be impeded or empowered through the design, governance, and litigation of emerging technologies. Design defines how people encounter the digital world. Some design choices can exploit the right to privacy by commodifying attention through tactics that keep users addicted to maximize profitability; similar design mechanisms and vulnerabilities have facilitated the abuse of journalists and human rights advocates across the globe. But design can also empower human rights, providing novel tools of resistance, accountability, and accessibility, as well as the inclusion of previously underserved voices in the development process. The new capabilities offered by these technologies often transcend political boundaries, presenting complex challenges for meaningful governance and regulation. To address these challenges, collaborations like the Internet Governance Forum and NETmundial have brought together stakeholders from governments, nonprofits, industry, and academia, with efforts to address digital rights like universal internet access. Concurrently, economic forces and international trade negotiations can have substantial impacts on digital rights, with attempts to enforce steeper restrictions on intellectual property. Private actors have also fought to ensure their digital rights through litigation. In Europe, landmark cases have reshaped the international management of data and privacy. In India, indefinite shutdowns of the internet by the government were found to be unconstitutional, establishing online accessibility as a fundamental human right, intimately tied with the right to assembly. And in Africa, litigation has helped ensure freedom of speech and of the press, rights that may affect more individualsas digital technologies continue to shape media. These three spheres—design, diplomacy, and law—illustrate the complexity and ongoing debate to define, protect, and communicate digital rights.
The Political Economy of LGBT Rights
Scott N. Siegel
Equal treatment for members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community has improved at a rapid pace around the world since the gay rights movement first rose up to become a salient global force for change. With important regional exceptions, laws criminalizing same-sex sexual relations have not only come down in multiple countries, but same-sex couples can now also construct families in many advanced industrialized countries. Public acceptance of homosexuality, even in some non-Western countries, has increased dramatically. Yet, within those general trends hides the remarkable unevenness in the spread and adoption of policies fostering legal, social, and economic equality for LGBTQ communities around the world. Policy change toward more equal treatment for sexual minorities is concentrated in the developed world and within the cisgender gay and lesbian communities in particular. The existing literature in policy change shows the importance of transnational activists, changing international norms, and increasing levels of secularization have made this possible. But the effectiveness of these factors rests on an underlying foundation of socioeconomic factors based on economic and social development that characterizes advanced industrialized states. There is an uneven distribution of resources and interests among pro and anti-LGBT activist groups alike, and the differing levels of economic development in which they operate that explains the decidedly uneven nature of how LGBTQ human rights have advanced in the past 50 years. In addition, new political parties and activist organizations have emerged to lead the backlash against LGBTQ rights, showing progress is neither inevitable nor linear. In addition, serious gaps in what we know about LGBT politics remain because of the overwhelming scholarly focus on advanced industrialized states and policies that benefit the cisgender, gay and lesbian middle class in primarily Western societies. The study of LGBT politics in non-Western and developing countries is woefully neglected, for reasons attributed to the nature of the research community and the subject area. In the developed world, greater attention is needed to inequality within the LGBTQ community and issues beyond same-sex marriage. Finally, issues of intersectionality and how different groups within the LGBT community have enjoyed most of the benefits of the gay rights movement since its takeoff more than 50 years ago.
Human Rights Perspectives in Social Work Education and Practice
Jacquelyn C.A. Meshelemiah
The social work profession has evolved extensively since its inception in 1898. The profession began with a focus on helping others and recognizing social injustices as its core charges. The profession is now being called to view human rights as its professional responsibility, too. As driving forces behind this new charge, the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) and the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) are taking concrete steps to ensure that the human rights perspective is being integrated into social work education and practice.
Human Smuggling and Human Trafficking
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 Human Rights Networks: Significance and Challenges
Hans Peter Schmitz
Transnational human rights networks refer to a form of cross-border collective action that seeks to promote compliance with universally accepted norms. Principled transnational activism began to draw sustained scholarly attention after the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 and the creation of a new type of information-driven and impartial transnational activism, embodied in organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. Scholarship on transnational human rights networks emerged during the 1990s within the subfield of International Relations and as a challenge to the state-centric and materialist bias of the field. In their 1998 book Activists beyond Borders: Advocacy Networks in International Politics, Margaret Keck and Kathryn Sikkink describe the key role that transnational human rights groups play in global affairs. Focusing on rights-based activism, Keck and Sikkink show how transnational advocacy networks (TANs) can influence domestic politics. The concept of TANs is dominated by the purposeful activism of nongovernmental organizations and driven by shared principles, not professional standards. A number of studies have challenged the core assumptions about the effectiveness of principled human rights activism, arguing that international support plays no significant role compared to the autonomous efforts of domestic activists. One way to overcome these challenges and criticisms is for the transnational activist sector, as well as other types of non-state actors, to move beyond the principles/interests dichotomy and take a closer look at the internal dynamics of participant NGOs.
Teaching Human Rights With Active Learning
For decades, international studies instructors have adopted active learning techniques to engage students in a wide range of classes. The literature on active learning suggests many benefits of integrating these methods into courses as a complement to traditional teaching modes such as lectures. These benefits include motivating and engaging students, enhancing learning of content, and supporting skill building. Although the empirical literature on active learning is mixed, the general consensus from the literature is that active learning is a valuable supplement to other teaching methods. Students and faculty find active learning enjoyable and engaging. Human rights courses, specifically, can benefit from engaging students. Active learning can help students unpack their preconceived ideas about human rights, identify the challenges that face international efforts to cooperate, and better understand the world around them. At the same time, human rights courses often cover sensitive topics that can present challenges for instructors wanting to engage in active learning techniques. It is important to be mindful of how to approach these topics, regardless of teaching method and especially when using active learning techniques that give students more agency in the classroom. Focusing on best practices for active learning provides a useful guide to managing the challenges that using active learning poses in human rights courses. In particular, instructors should align activities with course learning objectives, give careful consideration to the selection of topics and questions, create a classroom environment that is conductive to respectful engagement, and use debriefing techniques at the conclusion of an activity. Active learning, when designed and implemented carefully, can help create a transformational learning experience for students in a human rights course.
Stateless Diasporas and China’s Uyghur Crisis in the 21st Century
Işık Kuşçu Bonnenfant
Research on contemporary diasporas and their political mobilization strategies has proliferated. The literature differentiates between the mobilization strategies of stateless and state-linked diaspora. While earlier works have argued that stateless diasporas pursue more violent strategies with, as an end goal, secession, more recent studies have suggested that this is not always the case. Research on diaspora has also borrowed extensively from social movement theory. This has allowed researchers to focus on diaspora as a social group that can mobilize in convenient political opportunity structures with claim-making ability. A political opportunity structure is the combination of structural and contextual conditions that permits diaspora mobilization. Mobilizing structures and frames are the two other analytical tools of social movement theory that have previously inspired diaspora scholars. Mobilizing structures are formal and informal structures in which diasporas can organize collectively for a common cause. Various frames, such as human rights, enable a diaspora to make sense of certain events and conditions in its aim to mobilize members into action. Nearly 500,000 to 600,000 Uyghurs live as diaspora today; most of them left their homeland, the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in China, because of increasingly repressive policies targeting the very core elements of their identity. Uyghurs are one of the 55 ethnic minorities in China. Particularly after the end of the Cold War and the independence of the neighboring Central Asian republics, China perceived a threat of secession from the Uyghurs in Xinjiang. Later, 9/11 and the subsequent war on terror instigated China to adopt a new rhetoric, one that focused on the “fight against terrorism” in its policies toward Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang. Riots and several terrorist incidents reinforced this discourse and legitimized China’s securitization of the Uyghur issue. Since 2010, China has increased surveillance activities in the region, arbitrarily detained up to a million people, and violated the basic rights of Muslim minorities in Xinjiang. Since the 1960s, the Uyghur diaspora has pursued various mobilization strategies, most of which are confined to nonviolent repertoires of action. Uyghurs abroad have utilized various mobilization structures and political opportunity structures and frames. The first-generation Uyghur diaspora contributed greatly to the construction of a national identity and history, and this was an alternative to China’s dominant narratives. The second generation has benefited from better political opportunity structures and managed to bring various Uyghur diaspora organizations under one umbrella, the World Uyghur Congress. The Uyghur diaspora vigorously continues its efforts to create awareness on the plight of its brethren in the homeland within a human rights–based frame using moderate strategies of action. The Uyghur diaspora leadership has become a legitimate transnational actor, one that is now taken quite seriously by various states and international organizations.