Author: Suzanne van Basten
The concept human rights is nowadays commonly used to strive for a certain level of development by global organisations and governments. This also applies to development aid organisation UNICEF, which is frequently using the term to define their goals. However, it is striking that not more than twenty years ago the concept was not used at all by UNICEF. As part of the research seminar ‘History of Human Rights’ I have studied the introduction and subsequent use of the concept human rights within UNICEF by questioning why and when UNICEF has chosen the concept human rights to define their mission. In particular I engaged in research on the effect of the Children’s Right treaty of 1989 on the introduction of the concept human rights by UNICEF. In order to answer this question I looked into the annual reports of UNICEF from the period 1980 till 2000 with a special focus on the Children’s Right treaty of 1989. (more…)
Author: Nina Littel
From the 2000’s onwards, provincial bylaws have been implemented in Indonesia that have criminalized certain types of same-sexual practices. This was followed in 2006 by a similar nation-wide law. LGBT human rights organization OutRight Action International has described this process as ‘creeping criminalization’, through which those who engage in same-sexual activities were put in an increasingly precarious situation.[i] These regulations went together with hostile anti-LGBT rhetoric from government officials and religious bodies, inspiring religious vigilante groups to repeatedly attack LGBT events, from 2010 onwards. Often, local police failed to protect LGBT activists, despite the fact that homosexuality and transgenderism in itself were not illegal in Indonesia, and the constitution guaranteed both the right to organize, and freedom of speech.[ii]
Author: Yoram Carboex
As part of my RMa degree in Political Culture and National Identities I followed the course History of Human Rights last semester. In this course, given by Dr. Paul van Trigt, we set out to gain an understanding of human rights from a historical perspective.
What became especially clear in the course was the prominent position of one particular academic in the historiographical tradition of human rights: Yale historian Samuel Moyn. In his provocative book The Last Utopia: Human Rights in History Moyn seeks to challenge the prevalent notion of human rights as deeply rooted in history. According to Moyn, we can only speak of human rights in the way we currently understand them since the late 1970’s. It was at this moment that human rights – as a social movement based on an utopian idealism – came into existence. For Moyn human rights is then an utopian ideology based on internationalism; human rights as superseding the previously dominant notion of state sovereignty. Consequently, from this period onwards, the appeal to supranational institutions and their legal protections became essential. (more…)
Author: Paul van Trigt
Human rights have since their ‘birth’ been essentially contested concepts. Recently, they have become subject of intense debates in historiography. Sam Moyn’s provocative book The Last Utopia (2010) made in particular clear how important it is to investigate precisely which meaning human rights have been given in a particular context. Moyn argues that it is only since the 1970s that human rights have been defined as liberal freedoms based on individual dignity and protected by international law. Moyn therefore rejects long-term histories of human rights traced back e.g. to the French Revolution. Moreover, he relativizes the importance of human rights in the aftermath of the Second World War and during processes of decolonization. Of course the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was issued in 1948 and the concept has since then been used, but not yet on the scale and with the same meaning as it has had since the 1970s. (more…)
Author: Amany Soliman
In the year 1979, millions of Egyptians mesmerized in front of their television sets watching a TV series about the life of a blind man from a subaltern village in Upper Egypt who fought against poverty, ignorance and illness to become a symbol of enlightenment in post colonial Egypt. The Egyptian state television aired the series that was based on the autobiography of Taha Hussein while Egypt was getting ready to participate in the International Year of Disabled Persons in 1981. (more…)
Author: Veronika Flegar
This is the final blog post in a series of four. In this series I seek to highlight some of the underlying assumptions of four concepts or approaches that are commonly employed to further the human rights of excluded or marginalized individuals or groups. The last three blog posts dealt with human dignity, the capabilities approach and intersectionality. This blog post will cover the notion of vulnerability. Since this is the last blog post in this series I aim to relate the notion of vulnerability to the three earlier discussed ideas and point to what the notion can or cannot add in light of the pitfalls of the other ideas. (more…)
Author: Veronika Flegar
This is the third blog post in a series of four in which I aim to highlight some of the underlying assumptions of concepts and approaches which are commonly employed to further the human rights of excluded or marginalized individuals or groups. The last two blog posts dealt with human dignity and the capabilities approach. This blog post will cover intersectionality before the last blog post will deal with the notion of vulnerability. (more…)
Author: Veronika Flegar
This blog post is the second in a series of four in which I aim to disentangle some of the underlying assumptions of contemporary concepts and approaches that can be employed for justifying or engaging with the international human rights law framework. The previous post dealt with human dignity and found that at least one criticism of human dignity is not easily resolved, namely its inherent focus on the autonomy and freedom of rational human beings. It was argued that this insufficiently accounts for the situation of persons who are marginalized and do not easily fit within this mainstream liberal view of humans as rational actors. The present blog post will deal with the capabilities approach which tries to mitigate some of these aspects. Yet, as this blog post shows, authors remain in dispute as to whether the capabilities approach sufficiently succeeds in doing so. The two subsequent blog posts of this series will then deal with intersectionality and, lastly, the notion of vulnerability.
Author: Veronika Flegar
In an earlier post on this blog Paul van Trigt pointed to the frequent neglect of viewing human rights in their larger historical context. This is not only true for historians but, arguably, even more so for human rights lawyers. Due to this neglect, human rights lawyers seem to sometimes suffer a bias towards the salience of human rights and seem to be primarily preoccupied with the interpretation of international treaties and case law. Such interpretations often neglect to question the human rights system or its underlying assumptions as such. Yet, a more critical approach towards the central ideas of international human rights law seems necessary in order to build a sustainable system that is to the benefit of all human beings – including persons or groups who are commonly marginalized or excluded.
Author: Anaïs van Ertvelde
Iek! Ik kan een kreetje niet onderdrukken wanneer het me overkomt, vaak na dagen vruchteloos ploeteren. Senioren die hun familiestamboom zitten uit te pluizen kijken licht geërgerd op. In archieven wordt doorgaans gezwegen. Frivole uitroepen van arbeidsvreugde zijn ze er niet gewend. Een historisch vondstje brengt me nu eenmaal een kinderlijk gevoel van bevrediging. Lang gehouden vermoedens die plots bevestigd of weerlegd worden door een weggegooide zin, ergens aan het einde van het vergeelde verslag van een kabinetsvergadering. Noem me sentimenteel, verwijt me een hang naar het ambachtelijke, maar ik ben zo één van die historici die graag in een archief zit. Iemand die liever hanepoten in notitieboeken krabbelt dan praktisch op een laptop typt. Lettertypes die al decennia niet meer in zwang zijn, maagdelijke bundeltjes die je voor de eerste keer losstrikt. Het is niet alleen charmant – charmanter dan een ingescande tekst door een pdf-zoeker draaien. Het is ook allemaal context, die je iets vertelt over de inhoud van wat je aan het lezen bent. Als historici iets kunnen doen, is het wel context bieden.