Human rights — and the international institutions that strive to protect them — are under increasing attack from powerful actors on the global stage, from recent political trends even within established democracies and from new technologies. Together, these threats have undermined what had been a fragile international consensus as recently as two decades ago about the importance of concerted international action to protect human rights and punish those who abuse them.
China, Russia, and other nondemocratic regimes have become increasingly bold in acting as if agreed-upon international human rights standards no longer exist, or at least do not apply to them. More broadly, domestic political movements based on nationalism, religion, and populism are challenging human rights norms on nearly every continent. And new technologies — including autonomous weapons systems and relentless digital surveillance — have given national leaders new ways to control or even abuse their citizens with impunity.
This book examines these new challenges to international and regional human rights in Africa, Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East. It is the result of a year of workshops with human rights activists and young leaders from around the world, with chapters written by a diverse group of leading scholars. Beyond describing the challenges to human rights, the book offers targeted, practical recommendations for national and multilateral policymakers, activists, and scholars for concrete actions to protect human rights as well as improve public understanding of why doing so is essential.
Reclaiming Human Rights in a Changing World Order will interest scholars of international relations and human rights law, domestic and international activists involved in human rights — indeed, anyone wanting to understand the implications for the liberal international order of the new geopolitical competition, modern technology, and political and social movements.
Christopher Sabatini is senior fellow for Latin America at Chatham House. He is also on the advisory board of Americas Watch.
Sabatini, the editor of this impressive volume of essays, argues that this regime has been strikingly resilient, surviving the Cold War, the unipolar dominance of the United States, and the current rise of the global South.
How can the universal human rights movement reclaim momentum when it seems to be under siege everywhere? As challenges volley in from China and Russia, pandemics, populism, evangelism, emerging technologies, sovereign backlash, and regional geopolitical skepticism all undermine the legitimacy of the human rights orthodoxy. These trends have given rise not just to concerted pushback against universalism, norm development, transparency, and effective human rights institutions, but to the ominous rise of illiberal counterinstitutions aggressively mouthing slanted "counternorms." This volume assembles an impressive cast of discerning and thoughtful analyst/activists who recommend plausible steps to reform, rebuild, and modernize the international human rights system. The whole and the parts are urgently needed and reward careful reading.
Reclaiming Human Rights offers a timely reminder of the continuing relevance of human rights for millions of people worldwide. It provides valuable analysis of the capacity of states, international institutions, and various nonstate actors to defend human rights robustly and confront head-on those forces that seek to undermine them. Informed by workshops, including those with young people from all over the world, the book offers a refreshing appraisal of human rights. It speaks for a new generation of motivated students and professionals who recognize the enormous potential that can be harnessed through a genuine commitment to, and struggle for, universal human rights.
Without human rights there can be no peace, security or sustained development. The global challenge today is how international and regional regimes to protect human rights can be reformed to withstand the assault from autocrats and demagogues. With an unromanticized understanding of past shortcomings, this book identifies and addresses many of the great threats we face today, including those derived from technology, populism, and malign actors. This book should be read by scholars, policymakers, and activists who seek not just to preserve embattled global, regional, and domestic human rights but also to improve their realization for the many that experience them as distant promises.
Publication in open access of the book Reclaiming Human Rights in a Changing World Order, edited by Christopher Sabatini is financed from the funds of Chatham House.
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