Contesting Human Rights: The Legal, The Political, and the Structural

Contesting Human Rights: The Legal, The Political, and the Structural

by Ioana Cerasella Chis

The Effectiveness of Human Rights Norms in Changing State Behaviour

With the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, every person has, as stipulated in the document, a set of universal, inalienable rights. Since then, the human rights discourse (and, since 1994, ‘human security’), together with the concept of ‘democracy’ have been invoked much more widely by various actors, becoming what Laclau calls ‘empty signifiers’ (1995:43). For instance, the median use of the term ‘human rights’ by six of the world’s leading media outlets ‘rose 95% from 1986 to 2000’ (Hafner-Burton and Ron 2007:379). Does it mean that human rights have been increasingly respected, or on the contrary, violated more?

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