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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.

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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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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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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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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.

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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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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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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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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.

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22. Transitional Justice  

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.

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4. Human Rights in International Law  

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.

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23. The Environment  

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.

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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.

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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.

Book

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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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10. Human Rights and Religion  

Roja Fazaeli

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.

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5. Human Rights in Comparative Politics  

Sonia Cardenas

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.