The Challenge of Human Rights

The Challenge of Human Rights

Past, Present and Future

Edited by David Keane and Yvonne McDermott

The Challenge of Human Rights takes a detailed and exploratory approach to topics across the field of human rights, and seeks to map a path for future research and policy development.


David Keane and Yvonne McDermott

Subjects: law - academic, human rights, law and society, politics and public policy, human rights


David Keane and Yvonne McDermott When the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 proclaimed the universality of human rights, this was as much a projection of its future path as a statement of its then status. Human rights has since become as fundamental to political or legal action as mathematics is to physics; a common language to be applied to various problems or situations that arise. There has been a resulting exponential growth of human rights, to the point where it is inextricable from questions of democracy, state legitimacy and state co-operation. This complexity of human rights has seen a fracturing of its origins, motives and influences, and it struggles to be contained within the broad rubric of the UN international legal order or its regional counterparts. The edges of all of the individual rights-specific legal instruments are bursting with new interpretations or applications, as meaning is expanded to draw in wider issues or unforeseen consequences. The discipline has seeped into ‘such exotic and highly specialized’1 areas of knowledge as international refugee law, minority rights, indigenous rights, children’s rights, the international law of armed conflict and individual criminal responsibility, which all have their roots in the protection of the individual. The danger is that an ever-increasing corpus of rights will devalue the existing standards, hard-fought and hard-won, while adding meaningless layers and confusing advocates who seek simple expressions of state responsibilities. In this regard, the expanding range of actors, both state and non-state, has been the almost defining concern...