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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Rhona K. M. Smith
This chapter examines the international legal context of human rights. It first considers the historical evolution of international human rights law, with particular emphasis on the reincarnation of philosophical ideals as international laws (treaties), before discussing the principal sources of international human rights law such as customary international law and ‘soft’ law. It then describes the various forms of expressing human rights, along with the core international human rights instruments. It also explores the mechanisms for monitoring and enforcing human rights, including the United Nations system, regional human rights systems, and national human rights systems. Finally, it explains the process followed for a state wishing to be bound to the provisions of a treaty and the benefits of listing human rights in treaties.
Joanna R. Quinn
This chapter examines the link between transitional justice and human rights. Atrocities such as genocide, disappearances, torture, civil conflict, and other gross violations of human rights leave states with a puzzling and often difficult question: what to do with the perpetrators of such acts of violence. Transitional justice takes into account the social implications of such conflicts. Its emphasis is on how to rebuild societies in the period after human rights violations, as well as with how such societies, and individuals within those societies, should be held to account for their actions. The chapter considers three paradigms of transitional justice, namely: retributive justice, restorative justice, and reparative justice. It also discusses the proliferation of the number of mechanisms of transitional justice at work and concludes with a case study of transitional justice in Uganda.
John Barry and Kerri Woods
This chapter examines the ways that environmental issues affect human rights and the relevance of human rights to environmental campaigns. It also evaluates proposals for extending human rights to cover environmental rights, rights for future generations, and rights for some non-human animals. The chapter begins with a discussion of the relationship between human rights and the environment, along with the notion that all persons have ‘environmental human rights’. It then analyses the impact of the environment on human security and its implications for human rights issues before considering case studies that illustrate how environmental issues directly impact on the human rights of the so-called environmental refugees, who are displaced from lands by the threat of climate change and also by development projects. Finally, the chapter describes the link between human rights and environmental sustainability.
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.
This chapter examines the importance of comparative politics for understanding human rights practices. Comparative politics has advanced our knowledge of why states sometimes violate internationally recognized human rights. Both domestic incentives and exclusionary ideologies increase the likelihood of rights violations. On the other hand, comparative politics has attempted to explain human rights protection, showing how domestic structures (both societal groups and state institutions) can influence reform efforts. This chapter first consider alternative logics of comparison, including the merits of comparing a small versus a large number of cases and human rights within or across regions. It then explores the leading domestic-level explanations for why human rights violations occur. It also describes the use of domestic–international linkages to explain otherwise perplexing human rights outcomes. Finally, it analyses the ways in which, in the context of globalization, comparative politics shapes human rights practices.
This chapter examines the ways in which theoretical and practical relationships between religion and human rights are constructed and understood. It begins with a historical background on the relationship between religion and human rights, focusing on religious traditions from which human rights discourses have inherited or rejected a number of ideas; one is the tradition of natural rights, which was debated throughout the Enlightenment. It then considers the formation of the international human rights system, along with contemporary concerns regarding religion and human rights such as the treatment of women, religious expression and rights claims in multicultural contexts, and the significance of religious symbols. It also discusses questions of religious authority and concludes with a review of two European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) cases that demonstrate growing edges for questions of human rights and religion: the Lautsi case and the Şahin case.
Human Rights: Politics and Practice provides an introduction to human rights. Combining political science, philosophy, law, and policy-making, the text provides a broad range of perspectives on the theoretical and practical issues in this constantly evolving field. In addition to in-depth theoretical content, the text also features coverage of human rights issues in practice, with a wide range of case studies to explore concrete examples from around the world. The third edition has been brought fully up-to-date with the most recent events and latest research developments in the area. Two new chapters have been added: one on religion and human rights, and one on sexual orientation and gender issues and human rights, introducing students to these important topics and expanding the theoretical and practical discussion of issues of universalism and relativism. The new edition also features a range of carefully developed pedagogical features to aid learning, encourage critical analysis, and challenge students to question their own assumptions.
An Introduction to Political Philosophy provides and introduction to the subject, combining clarity and a conversational style with a thought-provoking account of the central questions of the discipline. The text explores the subject through a series of enduring and timeless questions, jumping centuries and millennia to explore the most influential answers and demonstrate the relevance of political philosophy for an understanding of contemporary issues. This new edition has been updated to include the on-going developments in multiculturalism and global justice, as well as in human rights and deliberative democracy.
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 LGBT human rights interventions.
This chapter examines contemporary critiques of human rights, focusing on the downside of human rights claims — what is commonly understood by advocates of human rights to be the ‘misuse’ or ‘abuse’ of human rights. It first considers how human rights claims conflate ethical and legal claims because the subject of rights is not a socially constituted legal subject. It then discusses the rise of human rights as well as the relationship between human rights claims and international interventions such as humanitarianism, international law, and military intervention. In particular, it analyses the ethical, legal, and political questions raised by the Kosovo war. The chapter shows that there is a paradox at the heart of the human rights discourse, which enables claims made on behalf of victims, the marginalized, and excluded to become a mechanism for the creation of new frameworks for the exercise of power.
William F. Schulz
This chapter examines the use of torture in Western history, focusing on the torture of slaves, confessions as ‘the Queen of Proofs’, and calls for the abolition of virtually all forms of torture. It also considers the principal international instruments against torture, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. Finally, it analyses the pro and con arguments of the hypothetical case in which a suspect is thought to know the location of a ticking bomb that is about to explode and may injure large numbers of people. It argues that such a scenario is extremely rare and explains how far more common instances of torture may most successfully be diminished.
This chapter focuses on the legal system in the UK and looks at how the legal system and human rights relate to the political system. The chapter starts by defining both the legal system and human rights and shows how they are important in politics and in our democratic society and how they work in practice. These are closely connected issues, as the UK legal system is supposed to operate within human rights principles. The chapter introduces a series of theoretical concepts that aid to the understanding of the legal system. Central to this is the concept of the rule of law. The chapter presents some practical examples to show how various goals are realized. The first example given in the provision of legal aid to those who cannot afford their own legal advice. The second example relates to how policy makers attempt to deal with threats of terrorism. The third example is the key legal basis for the upholding of human rights via the Human Rights Act 1998. The chapter finishes with a debate on the political role of courts and looks at the implications of Brexit for the legal system and human rights.
Consolidating Democracy and Human Rights
This chapter examines the consolidation of democracy and human rights in Nigeria. With regard to the relationship between development and human rights, Nigeria presents an interesting puzzle. It is rich in oil, but has not been able to translate its immense natural resources into sustainable economic development and respect for human rights. Ethnic and religious tensions, a result of colonialism, have been exacerbated by disastrous economic development, which has in turn led to a deteriorating human rights situation and intense violence. The chapter first considers the political economy of Nigerian oil before discussing the country’s political and economic development, with particular emphasis on critical aspects of human security and civil society. It concludes with an assessment of the progress that has been made as well as ongoing development challenges Nigeria faces.
Human Rights, Development, and Democracy
This chapter examines human rights, development, and democracy in Sudan. Since gaining independence in 1956, Sudan has been dominated by a northern Muslim ‘ethnocracy’ — a factor that helped precipitate secession of the Christian south in 2011. Long periods of military rule and civil war have spawned a culture of authoritarianism and violence. The chapter first provides an overview of political instability in Sudan before discussing the two civil wars and perpetual conflicts endured by the country throughout its history. It then considers the political economy of human development in Sudan, focusing on the link between underdevelopment and the politics of oil, as well as the failure of democracy to consolidate and the role of civil society in popular uprisings. The chapter concludes with an assessment of the connection between development in the Sudanese context and the need for improving human rights.