Join us for this years Governance & Human Rights Workshop. The theme of this years workshop is Emerging Frontiers of Human Rights.
Speakers and Topics
Pathways of attention and influence
Alison Brysk is the Mellichamp Professor of Global Governance in the Global and International Studies Program at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She has authored or edited 10 books on international human rights. Professor Brysk has been a scholar and lecturer in Argentina, Australia, Ecuador, France, Spain, Germany, Sweden, the Netherlands, South Africa, and Japan, and has held Fulbright Fellowships in India and Canada. She teaches graduate and undergraduate courses on human rights, international relations, civil society, and Latin American politics.
Human Rights Dynamics of Change: Pathways of Influence
How do human rights circulate and gain traction? Human rights scholarship on effectiveness and compliance outlines the main dynamics of how transnational human rights pressure works: interdependence, diffusion, legalization, framing, and shaming. In an era of widespread democratization, access to information, and mobilization in social capital, domestication, and citizenship may also be a parallel pathway that was not envisaged in the original regime. This chapter will analyze the potential of, barriers to, and changes in these pathways in the 21st century world order.
The Geopolitical Determinants of Human Rights Coverage
Political scientists have long recognized that public attention is unevenly distributed across similarly pressing problems, especially when it comes to human rights. However, the causes and consequences of such biases remain under-researched. This paper examines biases in human rights coverage, asking two questions: First, what determines (Western) media coverage on human rights? How does such coverage vary over time and space? Second, how do such biases impact local human rights conditions? Using novel data of human rights coverage in U.S. newspapers from 1980 to 2010, I argue that American media coverage of human rights is broadly determined by geopolitical salience. The “geopolitical trace” in human rights coverage has important implications for transnational advocacy, because advocates lose credibility when they are seen as politically motivated.
Social Norms and Responsibilities
Advocacy and Accountability in the Age of Backlash
This chapter considers different modes of backlash to international human rights norms and institutions, paying particular attention to how the shrinking space for civil society has had deep and disturbing consequences for international human rights adjudication. The article first considers different forms of backlash against human rights advocates and activists and then examines how this affects their ability to mobilize at international human rights courts. The chapter concludes by drawing broader implications for the future of human rights activism and adjudication at a time when states are clamping down on civil society and walking back from their commitments to international human rights institutions.
To Adopt or Avoid: The Case of Human Rights Advocacy about Early Childhood Marriage
Written by Amanda Murdie and Baekkwan Park
Since Finnemore and Sikkink (1998), scholars have had a very developed theoretical story of the life cycle of an international norm. The recent increase in advocacy for the eradication of child marriage provides us with a unique opportunity to examine the process which leads a human rights issue to become a norm with much of international advocacy. In the summer of 2017, we partnered with a key organization working in the area of child marriage, to identify potential actors important to the growing momentum for the eradication of child marriage. Focusing on 35 non-governmental organizations (NGOs), intergovernmental organizations (IGOs), government agencies, and legislative bodies, we then collected over 14,000 documents these organizations have produced since 2011. Using a machine-learning approach, we tracked when and how child marriage entered into the international advocacy conversation. We also tracked the development of the issue in the popular press. Using a variety of statistical tools, we can observe how the eradication of child marriage became entrenched in the existing advocacy lexicon over time. We are also able to identify the organizational characteristics that aid in the production of more child marriage-related documents on the topic over time. Further, we offer tentative evidence that NGOs may be changing the media’s discussion of the issue.
Better late than never? The evolving responsibility of international organizations
The recent financial crisis and the resulting MOUs between international institutions and states on economic assistance packages have rekindled the debate on the extraterritorial responsibilities of international organizations and, in particular, the extent to which IOs incur obligations for policies that contribute to human rights violations. Some IFIs, like the IMF, have consistently tried to minimize their responsibility by arguing that states can always choose to ignore the conditions attached to loans and thus the implementation of a loan agreement incurs state and not IO responsibility. This chapter will critically examine the evolving parameters of extraterritorial responsibility as a dynamic interplay between state and IO practices and assess the reach of accountability options drawn from treaty law, customary rules and general principles of international law.
Human Rights Regime Development
Regional Courts and Global Rights
Written by Adam Feldman & Wayne Sandholtz
Regional human rights courts apply their underlying regional treaties. But, in practice, they view regional rights systems as embedded in a global human rights regime and interpret regional rights in light of broader international human rights norms. To do so, they sometimes refer to other international courts. The regional courts cite each other, importing and exporting human rights norms and principles. They also cite the principal international body for interpreting global rights – the Human Rights Committee (HRC). Though the decisions of these human rights dispute resolvers are not authoritative for each other and cannot constitute formal precedent, we argue that cross-citations among them play a coordinating role. With the HRC as a central point of reference, the regional human rights courts are constructing a nascent trans-regional human rights jurisprudence. This trans-regional jurisprudence is an emerging frontier in international human rights.
The Use of Constitutionalized Human Rights Law as a Response to Rising Nationalism
The number of human rights provisions in national constitutions, as well as the number of countries with such rights in their constitution, have steadily increased in recent decades. Such constitutionalized protections provide potentially powerful mechanisms for assisting marginalized communities whose rights under international law are otherwise denied. This paper will analyze current scholarship on constitutionalized human rights law, which is particularly important amid growing nationalism and resistance to what some state actors perceive as international interference with domestic decision-making. Accordingly, the paper will explore those strategies employed by cause lawyers and NGOs which have successfully utilized constitutionalized human rights law.
Michael Goodhart is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Pittsburgh, where he holds secondary appointments in Philosophy and in Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies. He is Director of the Global Studies Center, a University Honors College Faculty Fellow, and Co-President of the Association for Political Theory.
Human Rights Cities: Making the Global Local
This paper argues that contemporary skepticism about human rights reflects an overly narrow focus on the international human rights regime, a focus that ignores the rapidly growing and fascinating phenomenon of human rights cities. The locus of human rights activism and enforcement is shifting toward localities, but scholars have just begun to study this trend. The paper briefly surveys recent developments in this arena, considers how they broaden and transform our perspective on the human rights regime and on the legitimacy of rights, and explores the political and theoretical implications of making the global local through human rights cities activism.
London School of Economics and Political Science
States’ human rights performance in the eyes of their peers: An assessment of the Universal Periodic Review at 10
Operating under the auspices of the Human Rights Council, the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is an innovative peer-review mechanism in which the human rights record of all UN Member States is scrutinised by other states. Since it started functioning in 2008, not only have all states been under review for two cycles now, but they have actively participated in interactive dialogues making over 55,000 recommendations on a number of different human rights issues. A decade after its first session, an assessment of this unique mechanism becomes more relevant than ever. In this paper I would like to explore the following aspects:
- Institutional design: The demise of the Commission and the expectations around the Council and the UPR
- Taking on a life of its own: Evolution of the practical functioning of the UPR
- Main achievements and challenges along the way
- A UPR research agenda for human rights scholarship
Carrie Booth Walling
More Information Coming Soon
Power over Principle? The Contentious Politics of Human Rights in the UN Security Council
More Information Coming Soon
What went wrong? The backlash against human rights/humanitarian organizations
Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) have a long and well-established history of involvement in human rights and humanitarian affairs. These organizations have been studied in various ways, and usually their work is lauded for its contributions to individuals, policies or practices. Yet, one of the most pervasive contradictions in global politics today is the growing criticism of human rights and humanitarian organizations (HRHOs). Governments’ growing skepticism of HRHOs is an important dynamic to explore and explain, but this phenomenon is less surprising and attracted more attention than the other, far more overlooked paradox: the growing skepticism among individuals and the public of HRHOs. This chapter explores what some have referred to as “the dark days” for global civil society and the backlash against HRHOs.
Emerging Contradictions in the LGBT Rights Revolution
Using the case of the European Union, this paper explores the contradictions that emerge in response to hard law mechanisms of conditionality often associated with the successful transfer and diffusion of rights. While LGBT advocates do rely on the now dominant systems of knowledge that have legitimated their rights in European polity, this represents only one component of diffusion. Importantly, the control power driving these conceptions of sexuality as human rights also produces uncertainty and a sense of risk that leads to the inflation of threat in multiple domestic contexts. These predetermined models of LGBT rights do this because they challenge the coherence of national identity, calling into question sovereignty, values, and self-understandings – even in a context as open to human rights as Europe, and more so in other regions. Such responses create challenges for LGBT activists as opponents paint LGBT rights as antithetical and contradictory to national self-understandings, as well as a host of other rights societies have come to accept. For example, the traditional family and rights of the child are painted as incongruous with LGBT rights.
This chapter analyzes how LGBT rights advocacy, within distinct contexts, innovatively address what are often “imagined” contradictions. I show that local advocates, embedded in transnational networks, navigate uncertain and complex terrains with a model of translation. It is this process that comes into play when international scripts clash with rival movements and ideas. Faced with competing claims about new norms governing sexuality – especially those that problematically conflate sexual rights with the external imposition of “western” power over the “vulnerable” states – local LGBT activists respond with translation. It explains, for example, why the Irish “Yes Campaign” branded itself as the “children’s rights” campaign, or why the Polish Campaign Against Homophobia now embraces Catholicism.
This is particularly important for contexts in which LGBT people have been isolated from the public sphere: as an unknown that, when initially visible, can provoke backlash. The product is innovation, in response to a troubled “one-size-fits-all” approach that can be counterproductive to the goal of rights recognition. Thus, translation is an interactive top-down and bottom-up process in which actors present and package dominant conceptions of sexual rights for distinct audiences. In making this argument, I show that the standard diffusion model has missed much of the translation work that actors on the ground rely upon. These actors are attentive to the realities that remain invisible from the top down—realities that render hard law mechanisms ineffective on its own.
Emerging Contradictions in U.S. Human Rights Policy: The Trump Budget
Donald Trump’s rhetoric and actions have foreshadowed an administration that has little respect for human rights. Trump announced that it is his belief that torture absolutely works and that the United States must “fight fire with fire” when dealing with terrorists and their families (Jackson 2016). Trump not only favors reinstating the enhanced interrogation techniques of the George W. Bush Administration, but he also wishes to go beyond mere waterboarding by utilizing tougher and harsher methods (Johnson 2016).
Trump has also sought to make good on the promise he made during the 2016 electoral campaign to extreme religious anti-choice groups to turn back reproductive rights for women. Within days of his inauguration, Trump re-enacted and expanded the Mexico City Policy and defunded the United Nations Population Fund. In addition, the Trump Administration has lifted human rights conditions on arms sales to Bahrain that were imposed by the Obama Administration due to Bahrain’s brutal repression of opposition leaders and protesters. Likewise, the Trump Administration has announced the sale of military aircraft to Nigeria despite Nigeria’s history of human rights abuses and bombing of civilian targets, including refugee camps. In addition, the Trump Administration wants to eliminate the USAID altogether by merging it into the State Department. Harris et al (2017) report that the USAID presumes that under the guise of streamlining the executive branch, the budget proposal will require closing 30 to 35 of its field missions and eliminating 65 percent of its regional bureaus. Funding for health programs will be reduced by 25 percent and the Bureau for Food Security will be cut by 68 percent. Development assistance funds will be eliminated or redirected to ESF. The Economic Support Fund program is categorized as economic development assistance, not military aid, even though its primary purpose is to support U.S. political and security interests. ESF is intended to promote political stability in countries deemed important to United States economic, political or military interests.
Is U.S. human rights policy coming to an end with the Trump Administration? Or will Congress and the American public find their voice to rein in yet another imperial presidency? This chapter will examine the threat of the Trump budget and arms sales on U.S human rights policy.
Dr. Stohl’s research focuses on organizational and political communication with special reference to terrorism, human rights and global relations. He is the author, co-author, editor or co-editor of 16 books and more than 100 scholarly journal articles and book chapters. Dr. Stohl has been the recipient of numerous fellowships and awards, including the International Communication Association Applied/Public Policy Research Award for career work on State Terrorism and Human Rights in 2011 and the International Communication Association 2008 Outstanding Article Award for Stohl, C. and Stohl, M. 2007, “Networks of Terror: Theoretical Assumptions and Pragmatic Consequences” Communication Theory 47,2: 93-124
Terrorism, Fear and the Contraction of Human Rights
What has become more and more clear with the passage of years is that not only did the events of September 11, 2001 shatter many of the hopes and dreams, as well as much of the practical work for the emerging global human rights and governance regime that had developed during the last decades of the twentieth century, but also that the reactions that followed and the consequences for the human rights regime were far more negative and long lasting than anyone anticipated they would be in the immediate aftermath of the attacks. As E.V. Walter (1969) argued the reactions to a terrorist event are far more important for the process of terrorism than the original actions. The securitization that occurred during the past two decades has created waves of backlash and opposition to the continuing growth of the human rights regime and security continues to trump human rights within and among nations. This chapter will explore both the consequences of these developments and the possibilities of reclaiming the rights that have been curtailed.
Walter, E.V. 1969. Terror and Resistance: a study of political violence, with case studies of some primitive African communities. Oxford: Oxford University Press.