The Evolution of International Human Rights: Visions Seen

The Evolution of International Human Rights: Visions Seen

The Evolution of International Human Rights: Visions Seen

The Evolution of International Human Rights: Visions Seen


This widely acclaimed and highly regarded book, used extensively by students, scholars, policymakers, and activists, now appears in a new third edition. Focusing on the theme of visions seen by those who dreamed of what might be, Lauren explores the dramatic transformation of a world patterned by centuries of human rights abuses into a global community that now boldly proclaims that the way governments treat their own people is a matter of international concern--and sets the goal of human rights "for all peoples and all nations." He reveals the truly universal nature of this movement, places contemporary events within their broader historical contexts, and explains the relationship between individual cases and larger issues of human rights with insight.

This new edition incorporates material from recently declassified documents and the most recent scholarship relating to the creation of the new Human Rights Council and its Universal Periodic Review, the International Criminal Court, the Responsibility to Protect (R2P), terrorism and torture, the impact of globalization and modern technology, and activists in NGOs devoted to human rights. It provides perceptive assessments of the process of change, the power of visions and visionaries, politics and political will, and the evolving meanings of sovereignty, security, and human rights themselves.


Do not make the mistake of thinking that a small group of thoughtful, committed
people cannot change the world; indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.

—Margaret Mead

There are times when the visions seen of a world of possibilities provide a far better measure of a person’s qualities and contributions than the immediate accomplishments of his or her lifetime. Visionary men and women who possess a capacity to see beyond the confines of what is or what has been, and to creatively dream or imagine what might be, sometimes have an impact that far transcends their own time and place. Indeed, visions of prophets, philosophers, and activists seen centuries ago in distant lands are still capable of capturing our imagination, inspiring our thoughts, and influencing our behavior today.

Among all these great visions, perhaps none have had a more profound impact than those of human rights. The reason is that they present something that none of us can ever escape. We cannot escape human rights because they address who we were—and who we are—as human beings. They force us to look at ourselves, at life, and at how we treat each other. They raise universal and controversial questions about the value of individual life, life lived with others, and what it means to be truly human. They make us confront what we believe about the relationship between rights and duties, our responsibilities to those who suffer, and the ultimate value of people different from ourselves. As such, human rights raise some of the most serious, painful, shocking, revolutionary, and hopeful features of the human condition itself, both in the past and in the contemporary world.

Throughout history, thoughtful and insightful visionaries in many different times, places, and circumstances have seen in their mind’s eye a world in which they and others might enjoy freedom, dignity, and protection of their fundamental rights against those who would abuse them. Many believed that these rights belonged to all men, women, and children, inherited simply by virtue of being human beings born into the same human family. Nothing more, and most certainly nothing less. With this premise they have envisioned a world without borders that divide people from one another in which we all are entitled to receive just and equal treatment without any prejudice . . .

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