Fighting for Human Rights

Fighting for Human Rights

Fighting for Human Rights

Fighting for Human Rights


In a world that is increasingly disillusioned with formal politics, people are no longer prepared to wait for governments and international institutions to act on human rights concerns. This book identifies activism as a key means of realising human rights and as a new form of politics. Fighting for Human Rights documents and compares successful high profile campaigns to cancel debt in the developing world, ban landmines and set up the International Criminal Court as well as emerging campaigns that focus on HIV/AIDS, environmental justice, democratisation and blood diamonds.


On the law of unintended effects

Richard Falk

The rise of human rights

From the time international human rights became a topic of interest in the years following World War II, civil society was integral to the process, although global civil society was not even an imaginary in this early period. As time passed, and grassroots struggles to promote human rights deepened and widened, an impetus toward transnational collaboration evolved, and from this dynamic, in conjunction with some related civic initiatives associated with environmental activism, feminism, global economic justice, and, more recently, anti-globalization and anti-war militancy, there has emerged a historically significant social construction that can be duly named "global civil society" (Colas 2002; Edwards forthcoming; Lipschutz 1992; Kaldor 2003; Keane 1998). This chapter seeks to narrate the interplay of human rights and global civil society by depicting certain peaks and valleys that help shape our current understanding about how best to advance the international protection of human rights in the early twenty-first century.

There is an assumption that guides this inquiry to the effect that major geopolitical turning-points, such as the end of World War II, the Cold War and its abrupt ending, a decade of transition in the 1990s and the aftermath of the September 11 mega-terrorist attacks on the United States, bear strongly and distinctively on the pursuit of human rights. Attention will be given to how these shifts in the overall global setting seem to alter the outlook and priorities of state actors, international institutions and civil society actors. Global civil society provides multiple arenas within which creative perspectives on the future of world order are being fashioned, and offers a principal source of resistance to present trends toward global dominance associated with American behavior since 1989, but especially in the course of the presidency of George W. Bush (Broad 2002). The challenge confronting global civil society, at present, is to revive the forward momentum of the 1990s in the altered political setting of a global war against terrorism and an American political leadership that throws its weight around unilaterally, while opportunistically conflating "human

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