Edited by Robert C. Kloosterman, Virginie Mamadouh and Pieter Terhorst
Chapter 28: Global governance, human rights and humanitarianism
Human rights, the basic idea that all human beings are born with universal, inalienable and indivisible rights, has undergone a remarkable global spread since the formulation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. Similarly, there is an ever-expanding amount of individuals and organizations working in the field of humanitarianism, to advance these rights. This chapter discusses the conceptualization of human rights over time and their place in disciplines like philosophy, law and the social sciences. From international law perspective, many human rights treaties have acquired global relevance. Empirically, on the other hand, there are vast differences in the degree of rights realization within and between nations. In addition, it sets out how human rights have been institutionalized, internationally, regionally but also within nation states, with a key role for civil society in these processes at all levels. A central paradox of human rights is the fact that they theoretically and legally rely on nation states for their protection and promotion, whilst these same states are often the greatest human rights abusers. The two examples discussed in this context, the Responsibility to Protect and Human Rights Cities, illustrate how human rights empirically cannot rely on nation states alone, but can only be fully realized by the combined forces of global governance and local adaption and protection. In all, human rights are both a driver and a product of globalization, and can serve as a countervailing power to its excesses. In order to deliver upon this promise of global justice, however, it is important that human rights take into account a variety of worldviews, religions and cultures worldwide in both processes of rights agenda-setting and in their implementation.
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