Join us in discussing Gráinne de Búrca’s upcoming book, Reframing Human Rights in a Turbulent Era. In recent years, human rights have come under fire, with the rise of political illiberalism and the coming to power of populist authoritarian leaders in many parts of the world who contest and dismiss the idea of human rights. More surprisingly, scholars and public intellectuals, from both the progressive and the conservative side of the political spectrum, have also been deeply critical, dismissing human rights as flawed, inadequate, hegemonic, or overreaching. While acknowledging the shortcomings, this book presents an experimentalist account of international human rights law and practice. Using three case studies from Argentina, Ireland and Pakistan to illuminate the importance and vibrancy of the movement around the world, the book argues that the human rights movement remains a powerful and appealing one with widespread traction. The potency and legitimacy of human rights rest on three main pillars: First, they are based on a deeply-rooted and widely appealing moral discourse that integrates the three universal values of human dignity, human welfare, and human freedom. Second, these values and their elaboration in international legal instruments have gained widespread – even if thin – agreement among states worldwide. Third, human rights law and practice is highly dynamic, with human rights being activated, shaped, and given meaning and impact through the on-going mobilization of affected groups and individuals, and through their iterative engagement with multiple domestic and international institutions and processes. The book offers an account of how the human rights movement has helped to promote human rights and positive social change, and argues that the challenges of the current era provide good reasons to reform, innovate, and strengthen that movement, rather than to abandon it or to herald its demise.
Alicia Ely Yamin, Harvard Law
Martti Koskenniemi, University of Helsinki
Gráinne de Búrca, NYU Law
César Rodríguez-Garavito, NYU Law