Human Rights and Societies in Transition: Causes, Consequences, Responses

By Shale Horowitz; Albrecht Schnabel | Go to book overview

2
The Universal Declaration of
Human Rights as a norm for
societies in transition

Johannes Morsink1

A recent study of how international human rights norms cause domestic change identifies some of the most important mechanisms involved in this process. In their introductory essay, ""the" socialization of human rights norms into domestic practices," Thomas Risse and Kathryn Sikkink, two of the editors of the volume, identify three causal modes of interaction (adaptation, argumentation, and institutionalization) and five stages in which this causal work is done. I believe that these stages are recognizable as quite realistic and as applicable to most of the nations discussed in this volume. These stages are as follows: (1) repression and activation of the international network; (2) denial by the oppressing state; (3) tactical concession by the oppressor; (4) "prescriptive status," which occurs when the society involved starts to embrace the international norms in various ways, such as signing and ratifying treaties; and (5) rule-consistent behaviour.2 This means that since the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) in 1948, in which these international norms were first delineated, the human rights movement has come a long way. We now have enough empirical data for scholars to develop causal models about how the human rights norms of the UDHR are brought to domestic audiences around the globe. That is a huge success story.

However, it is based upon the grand supposition that the norms of the UDHR are, indeed, valid moral (if not exactly legal at the time of adoption) norms that are worthy of implementation. In the concluding essay to the volume, Thomas Risse and Stephen C. Ropp (the third editor of

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