Given the systematic threats facing humanity, there is an urgent need for new thinking about the human rights project. The most prevalent form of global abuse exists in the form of violence against women and children. Sexual violence has been considered the most pervasive, yet least recognized human rights, abuse in the world. Equally prevalent among the modern sources of threats to physical integrity rights are the pervasive practice of torture and the issue of poverty and the threats it poses to human dignity and human rights. Individual civil-political rights and the rights of minorities, including women, ethnic and religious minorities, and indigenous people have been protected at times and violated at other times by states. Moreover, some observers argue that group rights should be properly understood as an extension of the already recognized collective rights to self-determination of people. But this broad spectrum of human rights violations can be organized into two categories: domestic and international. The domestic sources include both local and national sources of human rights abuses, and international sources entail international and global dimensions. These analyses are interconnected and reinforcing, but they can be contradictory at times. Understanding such complex interrelations is a necessary condition for describing factors and processes leading to abuses. In an applied sense, this understanding is essential for suggesting how we should proceed with the protection of basic human rights. Although there is agreement on the most pressing problems of human suffering, there is no consensus over the answers.
Ronald C. Slye
Domestic courts play an important role in the adjudication of international law, including international human rights law. The relationship between international and domestic law has often been characterized as a continuum between monism and dualism. In a monist system, international law is automatically a part of domestic law, and a conflict between the two is resolved in favor of international law. In a dualist system, domestic law is superior to international law within the domestic legal system, while international law is superior to domestic law within the international legal system. A conflict between domestic law and international law is thus not always resolved in the same way in both systems. In addition, one of the areas with the most active use of international law in a domestic legal system is under a theory of universal jurisdiction. Universal jurisdiction most often involves both the incorporation of international law into a domestic legal system and the assertion outward (extraterritorially) of domestic judicial system. Universal jurisdiction arose initially in the context of criminal prosecutions, but is also found to some extent in civil litigation, particularly in the United States. Under the principle of universal jurisdiction, a state may assert jurisdiction over an offender regardless of the nationality of the offender or victim, the place of commission of the wrongful act, or any other link to the state asserting jurisdiction.
William F. Felice
Economic rights refer to the right to property, the right to work, and the right to social security. Social rights are those entitlements necessary for an adequate standard of living, including rights to food, housing, health, and education. Since economic rights have a social basis, and social rights have an economic basis, both classifications are considered of equal importance and interdependent. The intellectual and social dimensions of economic and social rights have evolved from at least four spheres: religion, philosophy, politics, and law. Throughout history, individuals and groups debated and accepted obligations to help the needy and prevent suffering. There were both religious and secular dimensions to these undertakings. Early human rights advocates moreover proclaimed an interdependence between civil and political rights and economic and social rights and criticized those who made too sharp a distinction between them. A central debate over economic and social rights relates to their legal validity. Some scholars argue that by their very nature, economic and social rights are not “justiciable.” Another issue is the link between economic and social rights in meeting basic human needs and the alleviation of global poverty. The right to development is also important in debates on economic and social rights, as it attempts to correct the economic distortions left by the legacy of colonial domination. Perhaps the most promising new approach to economic and social rights is Amartya Sen’s capabilities approach, which focuses on what individuals need for adequate functioning.
Henry F. Carey
Economic, social, and cultural rights (ESCRs) emerged in the twentieth century as the set of “second-generation” rights after civil and political rights (CPRs). ESCRs represent the “equality” phase of human rights after the “liberty” aspect of CPRs. Despite having achieved legal respect and parity with all other CPRs, ESCRs are often perceived as having less legal clarity and required compliance in practice. ESCRs, however, have a substantial doctrine for many rights of progressive development or realization. In addition to progressive development of all the rights in the 1966 International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), the Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Committee, which explains and monitors that treaty, has established a set of core obligations of states. Despite the problems inherent in the process of monitoring ESCRs, there are three major institutions which review the state of ESCRs in the world today: the United Nations (UN), states parties, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Additionally, the general direction of the literature on ESCRs is geared towards implementation and promotion of these rights. However, there is a tendency to examine ESCR violations that have a link to CPRs or to UN peace projects. There have also been various initiatives affecting second- and especially third-generation rights, such as the protection of indigenous peoples.
Feminism has provided some new perspectives to the discourse on human rights over the years. Contemporary feminist scholarship has sought to critique the liberalism on which the conception of formal “equality” in the international human rights laws has been derived on a number of grounds. Two of the most pertinent critiques for this discussion are: the androcentric construction of human rights; and the perpetuation of the false dichotomy between the public and private spheres. This exploration of the relationship between liberalism and women’s human rights constitutes a significant shift in which many feminists had realized that the emphasis on “sameness” with men was limited in its utility. This shift rejected the “sameness” principle of the liberal feminists and brought gender-specific abuses into the mainstream of human rights theory and practice. By gender mainstreaming international institutions and future human rights treaties, specific women’s rights could be defined as human rights more generally. Feminists have since extended their critique of androcentrism and the public–private dichotomy to the study of gender inequalities and economic globalization, which is an important systemic component of structural indivisibility. In particular, the broader women’s human rights movement has come to realize that civil-political liberties and socioeconomic rights are inextricable, though there is disagreement over the exact nature of this relationship.
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.
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.
Kevin K W Ip
Distributive justice, in its broadest sense, is about how benefits and burdens ought to be distributed among a set of individuals as a matter of right and entitlement. Political philosophers have traditionally assumed that principles of distributive justice apply only within the bounds of a given political community. However, this assumption has been rigorously challenged in recent years, as evidenced by the recent work on global distributive justice. The focus of this article includes theoretical approaches to the problem of global poverty, special obligations among fellow nationals, and global inequality. In addition to these theoretical debates, students of global distributive justice have paid considerable attention to how certain facts about the global domain might affect the grounds of their normative judgments. Therefore, it is important to focus on the application of distributive justice to certain global issues. These issues include reparations for historic injustice, climate change, transnational trade, and natural-resources ownership. These issues are inevitably global in scope and they tend to have profound impacts on the well-being of individuals around the world.
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.
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.