Human Rights at a Crossroads

Berkeley Law’s Miller Institute for Global Challenges and the Law

The nature and scope of pressing human rights challenges should cause us to reevaluate whether our rights approaches to defending freedom should be revisited.  

This moment calls into question the theories of change and working methods of international human rights. While the ultimate goal of the human rights movement to secure just societies is unassailable, is it equipped to do so? In this partnership with Berkeley Law’s Miller Institute for Global Challenges and the Law, several human rights scholars and practitioners explore this question and think critically and imaginatively about the future of the human rights movement. 

Contributors to this series draw on their experiences as actors and observers of the human rights project to offer insights on a variety of ways that shifts within the geopolitical, institutional, and normative landscape challenge the movement. They consider how to frame the challenges we face—to what extent are these challenges of a different nature than in the past? Writers address human rights strategies and reconsider their theoretical foundations prompting questions about the utility of a rights-based approach that has been a mainstay of the movement. As authors pull back the frame, they share their thinking about where the movement should be headed and the extent to which we should preserve our traditions and the extent to which we need to innovate to meet the present moment. 


Human rights in the post-truth era

By: Nicolas Agostini
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As attacks on truth and facts multiply, can activists be falling into the traps of post-truth? Evolutions in activism, communications and politics, as well as in ...

Biodignity: Rethinking life and respect in the Anthropocene

By: Antonio Pele & Katharina Bauer & Stephen Riley

Human dignity, when it asserts humanity’s moral primacy in the world, or when it over-values human reason, is symptomatic of humanity’s self-destructive and dominating ...

Children’s right to climate justice

By: Belinda Walzer

The landmark case of 2019 where sixteen children and young people from twelve different countries opened the door to think about guaranteeing rights now and in ...

A word of advice to the next High Commissioner for Human Rights: engage with UN human rights experts

By: Vincent Ploton
Español | Français | العربية

Michelle Bachelet will not seek a second term as High Commissioner for Human Rights, kicking off a race to find a suitable replacement.

The doughnut approach: how to climatize human rights

By: César Rodríguez-Garavito

If human rights are to remain relevant in the Anthropocene, budding theoretical, doctrinal, and advocacy efforts to address the climate emergency need to be expanded.

Of time and the practice of human rights in the digital age

By: Alice M. Miller

Reflecting on the internet as a constitutive site for rights work may allow us to usefully open the internet to a different kind of scrutiny.

A call to the human rights movement for going broader and refining the interdisciplinary tools to push for dignity

By: Viviana Krsticevic

Increasing the breadth of actors involved in the common platform of fundamental rights ideals would strengthen the human rights movement’s ability to hold its ground ...

Rethinking past and future justice

By: Zinaida Miller

“We should certainly pursue bigger truths and more robust histories, better accounts of the reproduction of injustice, and better remedies for it.”

Human rights open frontier: resistance and resilience

By: Ruti Teitel

How much does the experience with humanitarian intervention account for the questioning of human rights, and to what extent is this experience central to cutting ...

What do we really talk about when we talk about human rights?

By: James Silk

The greatest value of international human rights law has been as a language for people, communities, and social movements to use to demand respect for their human ...

Critical legal empowerment for human rights

By: Meg Satterthwaite

Human rights advocates should become reliable partners to movements led by the communities experiencing grave rights deprivations.

Human rights have lost their monopoly as a framework for reform

By: Samuel Moyn

"If human rights are in crisis, it is not because of some problem in their normative content."

The urgent need for a new agenda of change in international human rights law

By: David Kaye

Human rights law needs to evolve in order to meet the challenges and reconceptualized international law and institutions of this moment.

Three challenges for the human rights movement

By: Naomi Roht-Arriaza

Rethinking the human rights movement's approach to state-centrism, institutionalism, proceduralism might lead to a reinvigorated human rights project more able ...

Human rights populism

By: Frédéric Mégret

What happens to human rights when populists invoke its language?

When is human rights part of the problem?

By: Vasuki Nesiah

The rule about the state of emergencies and the strategies we deploy to defend human rights

Human rights or a different register: taking seriously other emancipatory discourses

By: Karen Engle

The challenge for the human rights movement is to take seriously potential conflicts with other emancipatory struggles.

The international human rights imaginary and the international human rights movement

By: Laurel E. Fletcher

International groups should challenge themselves to invent new practice forms that disrupt old patterns that re-instantiate North-South power binaries.

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