The International Struggle for New Human Rights

The International Struggle for New Human Rights

The International Struggle for New Human Rights

The International Struggle for New Human Rights


In recent years, aggrieved groups around the world have routinely portrayed themselves as victims of human rights abuses. Physically and mentally disabled people, indigenous peoples, AIDS patients, and many others have chosen to protect and promote their interests by advancing new human rights norms before the United Nations and other international bodies. Often, these claims have met strong resistance from governments and corporations. More surprisingly, even apparent allies, such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and other nongovernmental organizations, have voiced misgivings, arguing that rights "proliferation" will weaken efforts to protect their traditional concerns: civil and political rights.

Why are certain global problems recognized as human rights issues while others are not? How do local activists transform long-standing problems into universal rights claims? When and why do human rights groups, governments, and international organizations endorse new rights? The International Struggle for New Human Rights is the first book to address these issues.

Focusing on activists who advance new rights, the book introduces a framework for understanding critical strategies and conflicts involved in the struggle to persuade the human rights movement to move beyond traditional problems and embrace pressing new ones.

Essays in the volume consider rights activism by such groups as the South Asian Dalits, sexual minorities, and children of wartime rape victims, while others explore new issues such as health rights, economic rights, and the right to water. Examining both the successes and failures of such campaigns, The International Struggle for New Human Rights will be a key resource not only for scholars but also for those on the front lines of human rights work.


Clifford Bob

Why does the international human rights movement recognize certain issues, but not others, as rights violations? How do some aggrieved groups transform their troubles into internationally acknowledged human rights concerns, whereas other groups fail when they attempt to do so? Asking these questions has practical implications for victims of abuse, raises thorny policy questions for the rights movement, and opens new avenues of theoretical inquiry for scholars. in today’s world, “human rights” are a pervasive political ideal and a compelling call to action. Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) monitor violations around the globe. International organizations hold countless meetings on rights issues. Democratic governments proclaim human rights to be at the center of their foreign policies. and the media frequently highlight rights abuses.

For beleaguered citizens in neglectful or despotic states, these developments represent opportunities for overseas support. If aggrieved groups can portray their causes as human rights issues, they may be able to tap organizations, personnel, funding, and other strategic resources now available at the international level. If a transnational network then grows, it may succeed in pressuring national governments to change policies and ease repression. of course, foreign assistance does not guarantee resolution of difficult national problems. Indeed, internationalizing a domestic conflict may backfire, hurting a group’s chances of achieving its goals at home. Nonetheless, in recent years, many who claim they are repressed, abused, neglected, or excluded have described their situations as human rights issues. Some have succeeded in rousing the rights movement while others have failed. in other cases, where those affected may not have the capacity to depict their plight as a violation of international norms, outside champions have taken up the cause. Children are one example, with their rights developed primarily by adults. Yet here too the success with which champions have trans-

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