Human Rights in the Emerging World Order

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Pursuing the so-called political account of human rights, this talk first explains some aspects of the relations between legal and moral rights, and between rights and interests, and then applies the analysis to provide an explanation of human rights. Using the rights to health and to education as examples, it rejects the traditional theory that takes human rights to be rights that people have in virtue of their humanity alone. But human rights are synchronically universal. They are rights which all people living today have, a feature that is a precondition of, and a result of, the fact that they set limits to state sovereignty and justify accountability across borders. Human rights function in the international arena to underline the worth of all human life. They give individual interests a central place in international relations, and have become a distinctive ingredient in the emerging world order where they generate new channels for political action in the international arena. They are by their nature moral rights that call for legal-political protection. Needless to say mechanisms for their protection should be efficient, reliable and fair, or they may cause more harm than good. Moral rights that cannot be fairly and effectively protected though legal processes are not human rights. The discussion of these points highlights the fact that the political account of human rights takes their existence to be contingent on social, economic and cultural factors, and the rights to health and to education are used to illustrate this dependence on factual contingencies. The fast-changing structures of the international scene include changes and challenges in the content and protection of human rights. The paper concludes with a discussion of the difficulties that cultural diversity creates for identifying the content of such rights, and for devising mechanisms for their protection.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: March 1, 2010

More about this publication?
  • Transnational Legal Theory publishes high-quality theoretical scholarship that addresses transnational dimensions of law and legal dimensions of transnational activity. It explores how transnational forces and ideations affect debates within existing traditions or schools of legal thought. Similarly, the journal debates general theories about law in light of transnational contexts.

    It also explores fresh understandings of international and comparative law. The journal has a special interest in the intersections of public international law, private international law and comparative law. Other areas of interest include the interaction of systems or orders along such axes as: constitutional law theory on the reception of various forms of external law by states' legal orders; jurisdictional theory on the external projection of states' legal orders; public law theory on the evolution of regional legal orders; panstate religious normativity; and the theorization of law as global.

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