The future of human rights

Reflections, ideas and insights into the future of human rights by César Rodríguez-Garavito.

Perhaps there has never been so much debate about the future of human rights. As I’ve explained elsewhere on OpenGlobalRights (OGR), the reason for this is that the movement is in a moment of uncertainty and transition (not “crisis” or “endtimes”), given rapid and simultaneous changes in context and strategies for doing human rights work.  There many new human rights groups and issues, and longer-term shifts in geopolitics and technology are creating both new challenges and opportunities for human rights. Illiberal democracies and populist governments are proliferating, prompting human rights actors to respond and innovate.

Given the rapid pace of these concurrent changes, it has become increasingly difficult for analysts and practitioners to orient themselves in the field and anticipate future trajectories. Those who have not embraced the “crisis” perspective often find themselves on the defensive and double down on the traditional forms of human rights advocacy. 

On this new section of OGR, I will engage the ongoing debates about the future and delve into promising innovations in human rights thought and practice that address the aforementioned challenges. One of the core themes I’ll grapple with the need for human rights actors to learn from how other fields, such as journalism, have adapted to and seized new opportunities. Against the dominance of legal knowledge in human rights debates, I will borrow freely from other disciplines that have traditionally received scant attention in the field, including: cognitive biology, social psychology, artificial intelligence, and the science of cooperation.

Given that my approach to human rights work is “amphibious” in that it combines research and practice, I will write from my sites of fieldwork, teaching and advocacy in different parts of the world, both in the global South and the global North. Content for my entries will vary widely, including academic exchanges, experiences in advocacy and litigation, fieldwork notes, conversations and interviews, always in search for ideas and insights into the future of human rights.


Anti-capitalist human rights for the 21st Century

October 24, 2019
By: César Rodríguez-Garavito
العربية | Español

In addition to asking whether or not human rights reinforce the status quo, we should address the following ...

For human rights to have a future, we must consider time

June 10, 2019
By: César Rodríguez-Garavito
Español | العربية

Obsessed with pushing spatial boundaries, the human rights community left aside concerns about time. ...

Climate change and human rights: lessons from litigation for the Amazon

April 25, 2019
By: César Rodríguez-Garavito

Lawsuits have become an increasingly frequent route for urgent action on climate change, but the impact ...

Reimagining human rights as a frame of justice

September 12, 2018
By: César Rodríguez-Garavito

The future of human rights as a frame of justice depends on our capacity to create, detect, and foster ...

Trump’s victory could push the human rights movement to transform

December 10, 2016
By: César Rodríguez-Garavito

Donald Trump’s victory is a threat to human rights, but could it also push the movement to transform ...

Against reductionist views of human rights

July 30, 2013
By: César Rodríguez-Garavito

César Rodríguez-Garavito responds to Stephen Hopgood and Aryeh Neier, criticising both sides of the ...