For centuries, women have been struggling for the recognition of their rights. Women’s rights are still being dismissed by United Nations (UN) human rights bodies and even governments, despite the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sex. It was not until the 1993 UN World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna, Austria that states began to recognize women’s rights as human rights. However, this institutional change cannot solely be credited to the UN, but more importantly to the work of international women’s organizations. According to the social movement theory, these organizations have been permeating intergovernmental structures and, with the help of their constituents and experienced leaders, framing women’s rights as human rights in different ways throughout time. It is through mobilizing resources and seizing political opportunities that women’s rights activists rationalize how discrimination and exclusion resulted from gendered traditions, and that societal change is crucial in accepting women’s rights as fully human. But seeing as there are still oppositions to the issue of women’s rights as human rights, further research still needs to be conducted. Some possible venues for research include how well women’s rights as human rights travel across different institutions, violence against women, how and in what way women’s rights enhance human rights, and the changes that have taken place in mainstream human rights and specialized women’s rights institutions since the late 1980s as well as their impact.
Olga Martin-Ortega, Johanna Herman, and Chandra Lekha Sriram
The relationship between human rights and armed conflict is rooted in historical debates among religious, philosophical, and international legal scholars about the nature of a just war, and appropriate conduct in war, which also have come to underpin and international humanitarian law. An understanding of the links between human rights, war, and conflict can begin with conflict analysis, as human rights violations can be both cause and consequence of conflict. In the most general sense, grievances over the denial or perceived denial of rights can generate social conflict. This may be the case where there is systematic discrimination based upon race, ethnicity, caste, religion, language, gender, or other characteristics. Alternatively, human rights abuses can emerge as a result of violent conflict. A conflict may have been undertaken by the parties primarily out of concern to promote a political or ideological agenda, or to promote the welfare of one or more identity group(s), or over access to resources. Human rights are also potentially transformative of conflicts and may make their resolution a greater challenge. Thus, conflicts that begin as conflicts over resources, religion, or ethnic or territorial claims, may, as they progress, create new grievances through the real and perceived violation of human rights by one or more parties to the conflict.
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.
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.
Georg von Kalckreuth and Daniel Warner
The term “refugee crisis” is used throughout the literature to refer to situations where large numbers of refugees or displaced persons more generally are present, whereas “humanitarian crisis” refers to situations where the lives, health, safety or well-being of a large number of people are at substantial risk. The term “complex emergency” is defined as “a humanitarian crisis typically characterized by extensive violence and loss of life, massive displacements of people, widespread damage to societies and economies, and hindrance of humanitarian assistance by security risks and political and military constraints.” A typical complex emergency consists of one or more humanitarian and refugee crises, regardless of their actual causes, and necessitates an international and United Nations system-wide response because of its complexity. Humanitarian and refugee crises have often generated international response efforts that were intended to help affected individuals, alleviate their suffering, and restore their situation from the plight of crisis to some level of normality. In addition to the UN and its specialized agencies, international responses bring together a large and diverse set of actors such as the International Committee of the Red Cross and its national societies, national and international nongovernmental organizations, and the governments of third states. Their responses have drawn scholarly interest, especially after World War II. However, the literature on international responses to humanitarian and refugee crises does not offer a comprehensive and exhaustive scholarly treatment of the issue. This is an obvious gap that needs to be addressed in future research.
Shannon Lindsey Blanton and David L. Cingranelli
Foreign policy analysis emerged as a subfield ino the late 1950s and early 1960s, when scholars began to focus on substate factors and on the decision making process in evaluating foreign policy. It was during this time that the United States embarked on an effort to establish internationally recognized legal standards aimed at protecting individual human rights. The United Nations Charter and the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UNDHR) made human rights promotion the responsibility of all member nations. But it was only in the late 1970s that human rights became an important component of quantitative foreign policy analysis. Numerous developments, including the Helsinki Accords of 1975 and the International Human Rights Covenants in 1976, helped elevate human rights concerns in the U.S. foreign policy making process. The scholarly literature on the subject revolves around three key issues: whether governments should make the promotion of human rights a goal of their foreign policies; whether the increasing use of human rights language in foreign policy rhetoric has been translated by the United States and other countries into public policies that have been consistent with that rhetoric; and whether the foreign policies of OECD governments actually have led to improved human rights practices in less economically developed countries. While scholars have produced a considerable amount of work that examines the various influences on the policy making process—whether at the individual, institutional, or societal levels of analysis—relatively few of them have focused on human rights perse.
The literature on the relationship between globalization and human rights has laid out three responses to the economic, political, and social transformations of globalization within the human rights. First, some scholars consider globalization as complementary to the progressive realization of universal human rights on a global scale. They cite the extension and deepening of the formal human rights regime through international institutions and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and the emergence of new private, corporate forms of authority. Second, others perceive of globalization as creating substantial challenges for the realization of universal human rights on a global scale. Such scholars are engaged in criticism of the existing institutional arrangements of the formal human rights regime. They highlight the way in which human rights act as a form of power over people, especially where different ways of life are brought into contact and conflict through transformations associated with globalization. Furthermore, they reject the idea of the progressive realization of human rights as some form of an inevitable unfolding of history or as a singularly desired end point, and instead acknowledge conflicting conceptions of rights as expressions of social struggle A third group of scholars are engaged in the critique of the conception and function of human rights within globalization. From this viewpoint, globalization reveals that ideas of universal and indivisible human rights, along with their progressive realization, are flawed and need to be replaced by more substantive concepts. The critiques stem from the perspectives of neo-Marxism, postpositivism, feminism, and cultural relativism.
Pat Lauderdale and Nicholas D. Natividad
The United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues estimates that there are over 370 million indigenous people spread across 70 countries worldwide. Practicing unique traditions, they retain social, cultural, economic, and political characteristics that are distinct from those of the dominant societies in which they live. Dialogue and political negotiations with indigenous peoples has a long history that began at least a half a millennium ago when the notion of an inter-national” community and the concept of the nation-state became dominant. Since that time, the concepts of sovereignty, self-determination, rule of law, and human rights have led to the establishment of the frameworks and structures of organization that are now referred to collectively as modern international law. But unlike most modern international human rights law, which emphasizes rights of the individual, indigenous peoples generally think in terms of collective rather than individual rights. Because indigenous peoples’ “law” suggests the importance of collective rights, it renders a culture of responsibility and accountability to the collective. At present, international indigenous rights are a type of superficial bandage, giving the appearance of propriety to the crisis faced by the hegemonic “international system of states.” Therefore, indigenous rights standards propagated by organizations such as the UN currently are largely symbolic. However, they could potentially lead to real change if they are coupled with widespread acknowledgment of the fact that diverse societies exist throughout the world with different forms of social organization and diverse conceptions of law.
Kurt Mills and Cian O’Driscoll
In contrast with humanitarian access or the provision of humanitarian assistance, humanitarian intervention is commonly defined as the threat or use of force by a state to prevent or end widespread and grave violations of the fundamental human rights of individuals other than its own citizens, without the permission of the state within whose territory force is applied. In support of their cause, advocates of humanitarian intervention often draw upon and reference the authority of the notional “just war.” The four main ways by which humanitarian intervention has been connected to the idea of the just war relate to the ideals of self-determination, punishment, responsibility, and conditional sovereignty. For a humanitarian intervention to be considered legitimate, there must be a just cause for intervention; the use of force must be a last resort; it must meet the standard of proportionality; and there must be a good likelihood that the use of force will contribute to a positive humanitarian outcome. The historical practice of humanitarian intervention can be traced from the nineteenth century to the recognition of the Responsibility to Protect by the World Summit in 2005 and its application in Darfur. Major conceptual debates surrounding humanitarian intervention include the problematic relation between sovereignty and human rights, the legal status of intervention, the issue of multilateralism versus unilateralism, and the quest for criteria for intervention.
Nadine El-Enany and Eiko R. Thielemann
Forced migrations, as well as the related issues of refugees and asylum, profoundly impact the relationship between the countries of origin and the countries of destination. Traditionally, the essential quality of a refugee was seen to be their presence outside of their own country as a result of political persecution. However, the historical evolution of the definition of a refugee has gradually become more restricted and defined. Commentators have challenged the current refugee protection regime along two principal lines. The first is idealist in nature and entails the argument that the refugee definition as contained in the 1951 Refugee Convention is not sufficiently broad and thus fails to protect all those individuals deserving of protection. The second line of argument is a realist one, taking a more pragmatic approach in addressing the insufficiencies of the Convention. Its advocates emphasize the importance of making refugee protection requirements more palatable to states, the actors upon which we rely to provide refugees with protection. With regard to the question of how to design more effective burden-sharing institutions, the literature has traditionally focused on finding ways to equalize refugee responsibilities directly by seeking to equalize the number of asylum seekers and refugees that states have to deal with.