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. 


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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