Human Rights and Environmental Sustainability

Human Rights and Environmental Sustainability

Kerri Woods

Human Rights and Environmental Sustainability challenges the assumed harmony between human rights norms and the demands of environmental sustainability, by addressing conceptual, normative, and political questions surrounding the interaction between the two.

Chapter 3: The Contemporary Human Rights Regime: Some Criticisms and an Alternative

Kerri Woods

Subjects: environment, environmental politics and policy, law - academic, human rights, politics and public policy, environmental politics and policy, european politics and policy, human rights


[T]here is a disjuncture between the substantive rationality of human rights and the instrumental procedures and institutions that attempt to put them into practice. (Turner 2006, p. 31) [I]f we really care about human rights, then we must be willing to support the global order they favor, even against those who, perhaps by appeal to other values, support an alternative world order in which the objects of human rights would be less secure. (Pogge 2000, p. 68) 3.1 INTRODUCTION Without question, human rights enjoy a privileged status in political debate. This privileged status in part explains the attraction, from a green point of view, of presenting environmental claims in human rights terms. It also seems intuitively plausible that the global scale of environmental problems might map neatly onto the universalism inherent in human rights. But to proceed too hastily to a green appropriation of human rights would be to ignore the concerns of critics of human rights who attack the grounds on which the privileged status of human rights rest, who cast doubt on the purported universalism of human rights. Critics also highlight pressing concerns about the structure of the contemporary international human rights regime which, if valid, would undermine environmental claims cast in terms of human rights as they currently stand. This chapter assesses some of these criticisms. One of the most persistent criticisms of the idea of human rights is that they are Western rights, not universal rights, in the sense that they either reflect Western...

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