Establishing a Viable Human Rights Policy

By Kirkpatrick, Jeane J. | World Affairs, Fall 2007 | Go to article overview

Establishing a Viable Human Rights Policy


Kirkpatrick, Jeane J., World Affairs


In this paper I deal with three broad subjects: First, the content and consequences of the Carter administration's human rights policy;

Second, the prerequisites of a more adequate theory of human rights;

And third, some characteristics of a more successful human rights policy.

THE CARTER HUMAN RIGHTS POLICY

How the Carter administration came to be outspokenly committed to the cause of human rights is far from clear. As Daniel Patrick Moynihan has observed, "Human rights as an issue in foreign policy was by no means central to Jimmy Carter's campaign for the presidency. It was raised in the Democratic platform drafting committee, and at the Democratic Convention, but in each instance the Carter representatives were at best neutral, giving the impression of not having heard very much of the matter before and not having any particular views." Indeed, some of candidate Carter's remarks suggested that he was far from wedded to an activist human rights policy. "Our people have now learned," he told the Foreign Policy Association in June 1976, "the folly of our trying to inject our power into the internal affairs of other nations."

Nevertheless, by the time of his inaugural address, Jimmy Carter had become adamant on the subject of human rights. "Our commitment to human rights," the new president informed the nation, "must be absolute." Within weeks of his inauguration, President Carter replied to a letter from Andrei Sakharov, and met with the noted Soviet dissident Vladimir Bukovsky in the White House. These symbolic acts generated a great deal of excitement, yet they hardly constituted a human rights policy. On April 30, 1977, however, Secretary of State Vance delivered a policy address in which he set out to explain just what it was the administration meant by "human rights" and how it intended to promote them. According to Vance, by "human rights" the administration meant three things:

1. The right to be free from governmental violation of the integrity of the person. Such violations include torture; cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment; and arbitrary arrest or imprisonment. And they include denial of fair public trial and invasion of the home.

2. The right to the fulfillment of such vital needs as food, shelter, health care, and education. We recognize that the fulfillment of this right will depend, in part, upon the stage of a nation's economic development. But we also know that this right can be violated by a government's action or inaction--for example, through corrupt official processes which divert resources to an elite at the expense of the needy or through indifference to the plight of the poor.

3. The right to enjoy civil and political liberties: freedom of thought, of religion, of assembly; freedom of speech; freedom of the press; freedom of movement both within and outside one's own country; freedom to take part in government.

U.S. policy, Vance stated, "is to promote all these rights." "If we are determined to act," he continued, "the means available range from quiet diplomacy in its many forms, through public pronouncements, to withholding of assistance." Significantly, nowhere in his speech did Vance indicate that human rights rest on specific institutions and that, where these institutions do not exist, neither quiet diplomacy nor public pronouncements nor the withholding of assistance can conjure human rights into being.

In accepting the notion that economic and social "rights" are just as important as civil and political rights, Secretary Vance went well beyond any previous U.S. understanding of human rights. Another prominent administration spokesman on human rights, U.N. Ambassador Andrew Young, went further still. "For most of the world," Young declared, "civil and political rights ... come as luxuries that are far away in the future." Young called on the U.S. to recognize that there are various equally valid concepts of human rights in the world.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Establishing a Viable Human Rights Policy
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.