Human Rights

Jessica Almqvist

in International Law

ISBN: 9780199796953
Published online March 2012 | | DOI:
Human Rights

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The adoption in 1945 of the UN Charter and in 1948 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights marks the initial stages in the development of the current international human rights regime. The UN Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the UN Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, respectively, both endorsed in 1966, represent a milestone in establishing the international legal foundations for this regime. Together with the Universal Declaration, the two covenants constitute the International Bill of Rights. Since the time of their endorsement, the body of international human rights law has expanded dramatically both at international and regional levels. Much energy has been expended to achieve equality and to fight against discrimination. In this process, different groups have been singled out as especially vulnerable: women, children, and minorities, including indigenous peoples. The notion of human rights has been criticized as a Western construct with little or no relevance elsewhere. However, with time, this challenge has come to be understood not as requiring the abandoning of universality but as calling for cultural sensitivity and dialogue. The human right to development is still controversial, and its proclamation has been seen as requiring the advancement of a rights-based approach to development. At the same time, the idea of three generations of rights is generally rejected and the indivisibility of all human rights reinforced. A lack of respect for international human rights obligations is a serious problem, prompting the establishment of international procedures in the UN context and regional human rights systems, including human rights courts in Africa, America, and Europe. In recent years, more attention is paid to domestic enforcement, including the extraterritorial application of human rights. Also of interest are the human rights obligations of nonstate actors. Serious human rights violations are an important characteristic of contemporary conflicts, urging a focus on the international criminal responsibility of their perpetrators and on applicable law, as well as on remedies and reparations in transitional contexts. Likewise, it has prompted the more polemical question of whether the international community has a responsibility to protect populations whose governments are unable to do so themselves, including through humanitarian interventions and transitional administrations. Despite the relative success of the international human rights regime since the 1950s, its future is uncertain. Its stability and further improvement will depend on its ability to tackle contemporary challenges, such as the “War on Terror,” world poverty, environmental degradation, and climate change.

Article.  20713 words. 

Subjects: International Law ; International Courts and Tribunals ; Private International Law and Conflict of Laws ; Public International Law

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