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Cover Issues in Political Theory

11. Human Rights  

Tom Campbell

This chapter focuses on human rights. Human rights are derived historically from the idea of natural law as it developed on a strong religious basis in late medieval Europe and, later, in a more secularized form during the more rationalist period of the Enlightenment. Meanwhile, the contemporary human rights movement stems from the aftermath of World War II. It is associated, domestically, with constitutional bills of rights and, internationally, with the work of the United Nations. Human rights may be defined as universal rights of great moral and political significance that belong to all human beings by virtue of their humanity. They are said to be overriding and absolute. Human rights may be divided into three overlapping groups: civil and political rights; economic, social, and cultural rights; and group or collective rights for development and self-determination.

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Cover Human Rights: Politics and Practice

1. Normative and Theoretical Foundations of Human Rights  

Anthony J. Langlois

This chapter discusses the normative and theoretical foundations of human rights. More specifically, it examines the theoretical basis for the normative ideas advanced by those who use the language of human rights for an ethical critique of international politics and policy. The chapter first traces the origins of the language of rights before discussing cultural relativism and imperialism, both of which challenge the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights’ claim to have universal application. It then considers the negative/positive distinction as a way of thinking about the differences between liberty and welfare rights. It also explores group rights, along with the philosophical and political history of the idea of human rights. Finally, it explains how the human rights agenda is deeply political, showing that it privileges a certain set of normative commitments that its proponents hope will become, in time, the ethical constitution of the international system.

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Cover Human Rights: Politics and Practice

8. Measuring and Monitoring Human Rights  

Todd Landman and Larissa C. S. K. Kersten

This chapter focuses on the measurement and monitoring of human rights. It explains the purpose, challenges, and types of human rights measures and discusses the main content of human rights that ought to be measured, including the different categories and dimensions of human rights. It also considers the different ways that human rights have been measured using various kinds of data and measurement strategies, such as events-based data, standards-based data, survey data, and socio-economic and administrative statistics. Furthermore, it looks at new trends in human rights measurement, with a focus on new ways to measure economic and social rights, ‘open source’, and ‘big’ data, and the mapping and visualization of human rights data. The chapter concludes by discussing the remaining challenges for human rights measurement and monitoring, including biased reporting, incomplete source material, and the importance of continued dialogue between different academic disciplines on the need for measurement.

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Human Rights Claiming as a Performative Practice  

Karen Zivi

This chapter analyses the politics of human rights from a performative perspective. It starts with identifying rights claiming as one of the most common ways to highlight and demand redress for injustice across the world. The practice and promise of human rights have a clear gap as human rights violations remain a global issue despite the years of political activism, international human rights standards, and human rights theories. Indeed, several scholars are sceptical about the power of human rights in bringing an end to injustice and inequality. The chapter then covers the ideology of performativity correlating to a theory of language, gender, and politics. It explains that rights claiming may employ non-traditional forms of political engagement and depend on the state to secure the desired change.

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Theory in Practice: Making Human Rights Claims in a Human Rights Way  

Brooke Ackerly

This chapter explores the material bases of struggles for human rights that helped shape human rights norms. It highlights the importance of context to illustrate how human rights have been violated. Arguments on human rights politics typically revolve around the notion of cultural relativism and universalism. Cultural relativism refers to the ethics developed within a particular social context; thus, there could be no moral or ethical framework that could apply in all contexts. The chapter lists some human rights struggles, such as the activism of a labour rights organization, rights as entitlements, and making a rights claim. It suggests how public discussion can bring change if there is a transformation in power inequalities, which is often necessary to have aforementioned public discussions.

Chapter

Cover Human Rights: Politics and Practice

Introduction: Human Rights in Politics and Practice  

This edition offers an introduction to the theory and practice of human rights from the perspective of politics and cognate disciplines. It showcases the ‘state of the art’ of the study of human rights in various fields and disciplines and explores a variety of important topics in contemporary human rights politics and practice. This introduction provides the historical and conceptual background necessary for informed critical engagement with the ideas and arguments presented in the text. It first explains why human rights have emerged as a powerful and important moral and political discourse since the middle of the twentieth century, with particular emphasis on their modernity, their invention, and their revolutionary character. It then examines the politics of human rights, the practice of human rights, and human rights as an object of enquiry. It concludes with a brief overview of the aims, structure, and objectives of the text.

Book

Cover Human Rights
Human Rights: Theory and Practice provides in-depth theoretical content and features coverage of human rights issues in practice, with a wide range of case studies showing true-to-life examples from around the world. This fourth edition brings the text up to date with new readings centred on recent and relevant issues. It is an interdisciplinary examination of human rights, rather than strictly political science-centric. The first part of the book looks at theory and includes chapters on the philosophical foundations of human rights, international law, politics, and feminist approaches to human rights. There are also chapters that cover imperialism, social life, and performative practice. The second part looks at practice. Here chapters cover genocide, humanitarian intervention, transitional justice, and treaties and enforcement. There are also chapters on political democracy and state repression, migration, refugees, the environment, indigenous rights, and language sovereignty. This part also looks at social movements, issues related to sexual orientation and gender identity, religion, and the human right to water. The final chapter in the second part examines the SDGs and economic rights.

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Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, and Human Rights  

Christine Keating and Cynthia Burack

This chapter analyses the central human rights issues of LGBTIQ people by referencing sexual orientation and gender identity rights. It considers the power of human rights language and discourses with regard to addressing the discrimination, marginalization, and persecution of oppressed people. People are vulnerable to sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) rights violations as a result of the social and political processes which led to heteronormativity and homophobia. The chapter covers the features of SOGI human rights violations such as violence, being committed by states, and correlates these to human rights concerns. It also tackles the critiques on SOGI human rights activism from conservative and progressive perspectives.

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17. Children’s Human Rights Advocacy  

Vanessa Pupavac

This chapter examines some theoretical and practical problems in global children's rights advocacy. It begins with a discussion of the novelty of children's rights and the problem of identifying the moral agent of children's rights. It then considers the tensions between the universalism of human rights advocacy and the relativism of development advocacy. It shows that children's rights research is influenced by social constructivism, which highlights the history of childhood and childhood norms. Early social constructivist approaches identified the concept of childhood underpinning the Convention on the Rights of the Child as a Western construction based on Western experiences and its exclusion of the experience of childhood in developing countries. The chapter proceeds by looking at a case study involving attempts to eradicate corporal punishment of children globally. It suggests that there are social and political problems with attempting to globalize childhood norms without globalizing material development.

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2. Feminist and Activist Approaches to Human Rights  

Ackerly Brooke

This chapter explores the theoretical and political history of human rights that emerges out of the struggles that have been waged by feminists and other non-elites. It first considers the bases for the moral legitimacy of human rights and challenges to those arguments before discussing three aspects of feminist approaches to human rights: their criticism of some aspects of the theory and practice of human rights, their rights claims, and their conceptual contributions to a theory of human rights. It then examines the ways in which feminists and other activists for marginalized groups have used human rights in their struggles and how such struggles have in turn shaped human rights theory. It also analyses theoretical and historical objections to the universality of human rights based on cultural relativism. Finally, it shows that women’s rights advocates want rights enjoyment and not merely entitlements.

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Cover Human Rights: Politics and Practice

3. Human Rights in International Relations  

Tim Dunne and Marianne Hanson

This chapter examines the role of human rights in international relations. It first considers the theoretical issues and context that are relevant to the link between human rights and the discipline of international relations, focusing on such concepts as realism, liberalism, and constructivism. It then explores key controversies over human rights as understood in international relations as a field of study: one is the question of state sovereignty; another is the mismatch between the importance attached to human rights at the declaratory level and the prevalence of human rights abuses in reality. The chapter also discusses two dimensions of international responsibility: the duty to protect their citizens that is incumbent on all states in light of their obligations under the various human rights covenants; and the duty of states to act as humanitarian rescuers in instances where a state is collapsing or a regime is committing gross human rights violations.

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Cover Human Rights: Politics and Practice

6. Sociological and Anthropological Approaches  

Damien Short

This chapter explores sociological and anthropological approaches to the study of human rights. Anthropologists and sociologists have typically been either positivists or relativists. Consequently they have been slow to develop an analysis of justice and rights, thus lagging behind other disciplines in analysing the growth of universal human rights. This chapter shows how sociology and anthropology finally engaged with the concept of universal human rights after a long disciplinary focus on cultural relativism and legal positivism. It considers how sociology expanded its analysis of citizenship rights to that of human rights and how anthropology turned its ethnographic methodology towards an examination of the ‘social life of rights’. It also describes ‘social constructionism’ as a common bond between sociology and anthropology, laying emphasis on the importance of sociological and anthropological perspectives to the study of human rights.

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9. Global Civil Society and Human Rights  

Marlies Glasius and Doutje Lettinga

This chapter examines the relationship between global civil society (GCS), defined as ‘people organizing to influence their world’, and the normative ideal of a ‘global rule-bound society’. It first explains the concept of GCS before discussing some of the GCS actors involved in human rights issues, with a particular focus on their background, methods, and influence. It then decribes three kinds of activities of individuals and organizations in civil society in relation to human rights corresponding to three different phases: shifting norms, making law, and monitoring implementation. These activities are illustrated with two case studies: norm-shifting activities in relation to economic and social rights, and lawmaking and monitoring activities in relation to the International Criminal Court.

Chapter

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Treaties, Monitoring, and Enforcement  

Emily Hencken Ritter

This chapter explores the monitoring and enforcement of treaties, which is the foundation of international human rights law. The international nature of human rights treaties (HRT) makes it difficult to monitor and enforce states' compliance with treaty obligations. The chapter looks at how international organizations, domestic institutions, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and civilians monitor state compliance and invoke enforcement when necessary. It then explains the difficulty of constraining a state with the power to harm while demonstrating the power of collective action to change government practices. The process of compliance with international law involves standard setting, state compliance behaviour, monitoring, and enforcement. The chapter also highlights the difference between de jure and de facto rights protections. It looks into the social movements, such as the Black Lives Matter Movement, monitoring and enforcing state accountability to international HRT obligations.

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Human Rights and the Environment  

Sumudu Atapattu

This chapter considers the link between human rights and environmental protection. It covers the emergence of environmental rights and its correlation to the human rights framework as it provided relief to victims of environmental degradation and gave a voice to marginalized communities despite its limitations. The chapter provides an outline of the evolution of environmental rights starting from the enactment of the Stockholm Declaration on Human Environment. It then explores the recent development in environmental rights, such as the framework principles on human rights and the environment, Global Pact for the Environment and Environmental Rights Initiative. The UN Human Rights Committee handled the case of Teitiota v. New Zealand which revolved around climate refugees.

Chapter

Cover Global Political Economy

13. Migration  

Stuart Rosewarne and Nicola Piper

This chapter explores the transition in the dominant policies and practices that have impelled the momentum in international migration as a defining feature of globalization. It begins with a brief survey of current policy priorities, before considering some dominant theories of migration. The securitization of national borders by many OECD governments has enabled the restriction of rights to migrate and privileged certain groups of migrants over others. Labour migration has come to be privileged over other forms of migration, but often involves temporary work visas and significant vulnerability for migrant workers. The global movement to protect migrants' labour rights has had generally limited impact, but with some notable successes and continued momentum. Ultimately, migration continues to be politically and socially contentious in many parts of the world, adding to the vulnerability of many migrant workers.

Chapter

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Social Movements and Human Rights  

Jackie Smith

This chapter discusses the significance of the human rights movement to contemporary conflict and local and global democracy. It recognizes how social movement challenges state authority shaping the structure of democracies as activists develop political repertoires designed to expand public participation in political decision-making. Moreover, social movements resulted in the globalization of human rights, which is supported by a growing array of international treaties and institutions. The chapter then looks into the work of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) on improving mechanisms for human rights enforcement alongside the Human Rights Council. It considers the important roles of scholars and students in supporting human rights movements.

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The Philosophical Foundations of Human Rights  

Anthony J. Langlois

This chapter covers the philosophical foundations of human rights. It highlights the importance of human rights history to the understanding of debates and problems when theorizing about human rights. The human rights language has been globally recognized as a response to injustice. However, philosophers from the spectrum of conservatism, liberalism, utilitarianism, and socialism attacked the idea of natural rights, while the radicals criticized the rights of man for being the rights of bourgeois man. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is the defining text of the human rights movement, which is correlated to history and philosophy. The chapter also looks into the philosophical justification and universalism of modern human rights. It explores the concepts of cultural relativism and human rights imperialism. Additionally, the types of human rights revolve around liberty and welfare rights.

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Imperialism and Human Rights  

Bonny Ibhawoh

This chapter discusses the correlation between human rights and imperialism. It cites how imperialism is central to the development of human rights ideology by referencing the collapse of the empire following World War II and the rise of the international human rights movement. The human rights language boosted the justification and legitimization of imperialism. The chapter also highlights the impact of imperialism on the rights and liberties of colonized people, which also led to the strategic social reforms, anti-colonial activism, and colonized people's struggles for independence in the human rights movement. The collapse of empires shaped the development of human rights, while decolonisation influenced international human rights.

Chapter

Cover The Globalization of World Politics

32. Human rights  

Ratna Kapur

This chapter looks at human rights, analysing the structure and politics of human rights in the twenty-first century. In particular, the chapter examines the influence of liberal internationalism on human rights and how this is shaped by the legacies of colonialism, slavery, apartheid, and engagements with sexual, religious, and racial differences. The chapter encourages questions about whether rights are universal instruments of emancipation, or whether the rights are more complex, contradictory, and contingent in their functioning. The chapter also sets out the dominant understandings of human rights as progressive, universal, and based on a common human subject. Human rights advocates sometimes differ on the strategies to be adopted to address violations; these can have material, normative, and structural consequences that are not always empowering. These competing positions are illustrated through two case studies: one on the Islamic veil bans in Europe and the second on same-sex, queer relationships, LGBTQ rights, and colonial laws.