27 Ιουλίου 2014

The Endtimes of Human Rights. Ι) Description and Contents ΙΙ) Two Articles by Stephen Hopgood and ΙΙΙ) Video: Session - Stephen Hopgood: The Endtimes of Human Rights (and Humanitarianism?).


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Description and Contents

"We are living through the endtimes of the civilizing mission. The ineffectual International Criminal Court and its disastrous first prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, along with the failure in Syria of the Responsibility to Protect are the latest pieces of evidence not of transient misfortunes but of fatal structural defects in international humanism. Whether it is the increase in deadly attacks on aid workers, the torture and 'disappearing' of al-Qaeda suspects by American officials, the flouting of international law by states such as Sri Lanka and Sudan, or the shambles of the Khmer Rouge tribunal in Phnom Penh, the prospect of one world under secular human rights law is receding. What seemed like a dawn is in fact a sunset. The foundations of universal liberal norms and global governance are crumbling." - from The Endtimes of Human Rights.

In a book that is at once passionate and provocative, Stephen Hopgood argues, against the conventional wisdom, that the idea of universal human rights has become not only ill adapted to current realities but also overambitious and unresponsive. A shift in the global balance of power away from the United States further undermines the foundations on which the global human rights regime is based. American decline exposes the contradictions, hypocrisies and weaknesses behind the attempt to enforce this regime around the world and opens the way for resurgent religious and sovereign actors to challenge human rights.

Historically, Hopgood writes, universal humanist norms inspired a sense of secular religiosity among the new middle classes of a rapidly modernizing Europe. Human rights were the product of a particular worldview (Western European and Christian) and specific historical moments (humanitarianism in the nineteenth century, the aftermath of the Holocaust). They were an antidote to a troubling contradiction—the coexistence of a belief in progress with horrifying violence and growing inequality. The obsolescence of that founding purpose in the modern globalized world has, Hopgood asserts, transformed the institutions created to perform it, such as the International Committee of the Red Cross and recently the International Criminal Court, into self-perpetuating structures of intermittent power and authority that mask their lack of democratic legitimacy and systematic ineffectiveness. At their best, they provide relief in extraordinary situations of great distress; otherwise they are serving up a mixture of false hope and unaccountability sustained by “human rights” as a global brand.

The Endtimes of Human Rights is sure to be controversial. Hopgood makes a plea for a new understanding of where hope lies for human rights, a plea that mourns the promise but rejects the reality of universalism in favor of a less predictable encounter with the diverse realities of today’s multipolar world.

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Preface - 1. Moral Authority in a Godless World - 2. The Church of Human Rights - 3. The Holocaust Metanarrative - 4. The Moral Architecture of Suffering - 5. Human Rights and American Power - 6. Human Rights Empire - 7. Of Gods and Nations - 8. The Neo-Westphalian World.

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Two Articles by Stephen Hopgood
Human rights: past their sell-by date and The end of human rights

We live in an era not of triumph, but of the endtimes for universal human rights. In our multipolar world of dispersed state and social power, the inherent limitations of the global human rights model championed by organizations like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch is becoming painfully apparent. Both are trying to adjust, Amnesty by relocating to the global South, and Human Rights Watch by turning itself into a genuinely global brand. But if the concept of global human rights is to endure, a new and more political, transnational, agile and adaptable kind of movement must emerge, replacing today’s top-down, western-led model of activism.

To begin with, there is no reason at all to think states in the global South will behave any differently from states in the global North. States are states. The BRICS are not a new beginning, but rather aspirants to global status as members of the organized hypocrisy of sovereign states. The question is, can western human rights organizations challenge this by successfully allying with civil society groups in the south? Until now, western NGOs have failed to connect with southern publics beyond the elite level. Can this be changed? After all, many local, southern organizations and movements cherish beliefs that are not prominent in western human rights thinking. These include beliefs about religion, justice, ethnic solidarity, labour rights and the importance of the family. These remain vital aspects of their identity, even as these southern groups are persecuted by their own elites and states. How will universal human rights ideas fare in creating a solidarity movement with this diverse and often conflicting set of actors, many of whom see human rights as either compatible with non-liberal norms, or who are committed to social, economic and cultural rights of the sort Human Rights Watch judges inappropriate as a basis for effective campaigning?

Who defines the concept of human rights?
Globalization means diversity, but until now, “universal” human rights have been a fairly monotheistic form of secular religion.
Many in the west assume there really is a singular global human rights movement, and that its momentum is unstoppable. But this idea disguises the reality of deep internal inequalities of resources, objectives, priorities and influence. Why, for example, is it criminal justice, rather than social justice, that marks the vanguard of human rights globally? Because Amnesty, Human Rights Watch, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and the International Commission of Jurists say so.

There is a deep divergence between the concept of human rights shared by elites, largely until now located in the west (what we might call Human Rights), and what those rights mean for the vast majority of the world’s population (what we might call human rights). Human Rights are a New York-Geneva-London-centered ideology focused on international law, criminal justice, and institutions of global governance. Human Rights are a product of the 1%.

The rest of the world, the 99%, sees human rights activism as one among many mechanisms to bring about meaningful social change. By their nature, lower-case human rights are malleable, adaptable, pragmatic and diverse – they are bottom-up democratic norms, rather than top-down authoritative rules.

The zenith for Human Rights came in the years 1977 to 2008, years of growing American unipolarity as the Soviet Union crumbled. Along the way Human Rights achieved the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child, but also blunted the radical potential of movements for national self-determination. From the fall of the Berlin Wall for nearly two decades, Human Rights was triumphant: in 1993’s Vienna Declaration, 1994’s Cairo Conference, in the ad-hoc tribunals for Yugoslavia and Rwanda, the Rome Statute that created the International Criminal Court (ICC), the intervention in Kosovo, and the evolution of the Responsibility to Protect (R2P). The latter is heralded as the successor to humanitarian intervention and was, its supporters argue, fully vindicated in NATO’s action in Libya. But these successes disguise the reality that one country and its domestic activists – the US – were calling the global shots. Even during this time, the United States, a fair weather friend of human rights, has been more culpable than any other state in its refusal to permanently embed multilateral human rights norms when it possessed the power to do so.

Can western organizations become truly global?
How are Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and other big rights NGOs dealing with the changing world order? They have different strategies. Amnesty is devolving its investigation operations to southern cities. It hopes to ally with local human rights defenders, and increase the small, southern proportion of its global membership. Amnesty terms this ‘moving closer to the ground.’ Human Rights Watch, with no members to worry about, is creating a global network of research, advocacy and fund raising offices, aided in part by $100 million from George Soros. Both strategies contrast with that of the Ford Foundation, which is giving its money directly to seven human rights organizations in the global South.

Why will these strategies not work in the post-western, post-secular, multipolar world? One answer is the relative decline in power of the states, particularly in Europe, who have made human rights norms a foreign policy goal. The United States is unlikely to pick up the slack. Whether its turn to Asia is a ‘rebalancing’ or a ‘pivot,’ human rights are not high on the agenda. And the United States has significant human rights problems of its own. This shift will weaken the global authority of human rights norms. It is not that the BRICS are anti-human rights, just that they will seek to renegotiate the assumptions and substance of what those rights mean in practice and how, and if, they impinge on state sovereignty. Human Rights Watch’s strategy relies on its ability to ‘name and shame’ these governments, hoping that local offices will increase its credibility and effectiveness (and income and brand profile) in doing so. As of yet, there is no persuasive evidence that this will be successful. Time will tell whether this strategy pays off.

Amnesty International relies on both research and membership pressure. It is taking a huge gamble by assuming that local activists – under pressure from their own governments and networks – can report abuses without consequences. It also hopes that southern-based research work will be taken seriously by lawyers and policy-makers in Geneva and New York. If it works, the result will be millions of new members standing stand shoulder to shoulder in solidarity with Amnesty in India, Mexico, South Africa, Brazil, Hong Kong, Senegal and Thailand. Yet despite spending hundreds of millions of dollars since 1961, Amnesty has yet to build a mass southern membership. And this was during decades when there was no other human rights organization to join. Now there are tens, hundreds, even thousands of human rights NGOs in southern countries. What is Amnesty’s value-added for them? Why would they join an organization synonymous with postwar, Cold War Europe?...
Συνέχεια Πηγή: openDemocracy


When an icon of the 20th century’s strivings against oppression passes away, it is an appropriate time to take freedom’s audit.

“The struggles that follow the victory of formal equality and universal franchise may not be as filled with drama and moral clarity as those that came before,” President Obama said in his eulogy of Nelson Mandela last month, “but they are no less important.” And United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urged the world to be “inspired” by Mandela’s spirit. “His death has awakened in all of us,” he said, “the flame of human rights and the beacon of hope.”

Their message was clear: We have come far, but there is a great deal left to do.

Yet despite this rhetoric of rededication and hope, the ground of human rights is crumbling beneath us. If we seem to have moved beyond “drama and moral clarity,” it is only because we no longer know where we are going. In fact, a 150-year experiment in creating global rules to protect and defend individual human beings is coming to an end.

The evidence is all around us. Authoritarian pushback against human rights in China raises the prospect of a new superpower utterly opposed to the hitherto dominant language of universal rights. And Russia, if anything, outdoes China, with Vladimir Putin manipulating his citizens’ legitimate aspirations for even basic freedoms. From the introduction of sharia law in Brunei to the consolidation of a murderous military regime in Egypt (where the alternative was the ultra-con­servative Muslim Brotherhood), we see examples everywhere of resistance to human rights, in practice and in principle.

In a stupefying act of bravado, Saudi Arabia, one of the world’s most systematic abusers of human rights, rejected its seat on the Security Council, saying the United Nations fails to prevent “the violation of rights” around the world. African leaders resist the authority of the International Criminal Court. Bashar al-Assadstrengthens his grip on power in Syria after his regime uses chemical weapons to murder thousands. We see extreme con­servatism on gay rights throughout Africa, the Middle East, Eastern Europeand now on India’s Supreme Court. And when the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) declares, seemingly in earnest, that the exercise of human rights may be limited by “the just requirements of national security, public order, public health, public safety, public morality, as well as the general welfare of the peoples in a democratic society,” that is a mandate for executive power and social conservatism, not for inalienable rights.

A recent Pew Global Attitudes survey highlighted “the global divide” that splits the West from the rest on social acceptance of homosexuality. In a world where eight in 10people identify with a religious group, and where conservative forms of all major faiths — Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Judaism — are increasingly prominent and politically salient, the outlook for radical change in social attitudes outside the West and elite enclaves in developing countries looks bleak. For the seventh consecutive year, Freedom House’s “Freedom in the World” report found more declines than gains in the number of countries rated “free.” Russia led the way in repression but was hardly unique, as the green shoots of the Arab Spring led to widespread authoritarian retrenchment.

Freedom House called on the United States and Europe to do more. But the United States is worse than an ambivalent onlooker. Its use of torture and rendition against al-Qaeda suspects, its detentions without trial at Guantanamo, its drone program and targeted assassinations, and its rejection of the International Criminal Court all undermine the very idea, let alone the practice, of human rights.

Even the early promise of the Obama administration has dimmed. Political and security realities have reduced the scope of American unilateralism, the president admitted in his address to the U.N. General Assembly in September. The future, he said, will be about international and regional partners for peace and prosperity. In an era when containing China is paramount, we know what “partners” means: deals. No ASEAN state should expect a call from the president about human rights anytime soon.

Of course, governments have always been reluctant to tie their hands with human rights considerations, and cultural and religious diversity guarantees that the secular global rights regime will always have detractors and foes. But this is more than a transient change. We have taken the two-steps-forward, one-step-back nature of human rights for granted, assuming that the arc of history does indeed bend toward justice. The assumption underlying Obama’s Mandela eulogy is that matters of compliance, not principle, are the main challenge remaining. But the great moral drama of liberal freedoms vs. state and religious repression and discrimination is alive and insistent today, even as we are in a forced retreat from the battlefield.

This isn’t just a change from the 1990s, the 1970s or even the 1950s. It is the end of a historic project that began in Europe in 1863 with the International Committee of the Red Cross, the first permanent, secular, international organization dedicated to the protection of the suffering individual. The export of a liberal-humanist vision of global civilization, first through empire and then via the 20th century’s international institutions, has reached an impasse. Europe’s slow political decline has been disguised for decades by American power. Now the two are diverging, the Asia-Pacific calling Americans to turn East. The world in which global rules were assumed to be secular, universal and nonnegotiable rested on the presumption of a deep worldwide consensus about human rights — but this consensus is illusory.

The first challenge is multipolarity. It’s been more than a century since we’ve lived in a truly multipolar world. Now, as power shifts rapidly to Asia, the influence of Europe, so often the driving force for human rights and international justice, has waned. The United States has proved a fair-weather friend for human rights abroad and is now far more interested in China and its own export markets in Asia and the Pacific. The new and re-emerging powers known as the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) are not uniformly against human rights — although the records of Russia and China are abysmal — but they will increasingly want a say on global rules and who gets to set them. Newly emerging states are challenging settled opinion on transnational justice and humanitarian intervention, which they often interpret as victor’s justice and regime change. And the global rules and principles that organizations such as the United Nations rely on were not written by the vast majority of the world’s peoples, who have long seen powerful states declare exceptions for themselves and their allies. Newly powerful states will challenge this system — and seek exceptions of their own.

A multipolar world means more compromise — as we already see in Syria — more back-scratching and less principled denunciation. America’s notorious skepticism about most human rights treaties has in the past been tempered because international rights seemed to go hand in hand with Washington’s goal of spreading democracy. But opponents can now see U.S. ambivalence about strengthening global liberal institutions — outside the trade and finance realm — and know there will be little pushback when the stakes are high.

Human rights made sense for a secularizing Europe that sought a moral alternative to religious faith. But the world has not followed the secular path. If anything, it is becoming more intense in its religiosity — that is the second challenge. Over the past century, for example, Christianity has seen a massive shift toward the south, with more than 60 percent of Christians now living in Africa, Asia and Latin America. In Africa alone, the number of Christians rose from 9 million to 516 million between 1910 and 2010. And we are as aware of the intensity of Islamic faith held by millions in many of the countries of the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia as we are of the passionate evangelism shared by millions of Christians in the Americas and Africa particularly.

The language of human rights is a language of protest and resistance, not of authority and discrimination. In a religious world, secular human rights of recent heritage and ambiguous origin increasingly compete with long-standing cultural claims legitimated by traditions and gods. Where strong faith meets human rights, the classic modernizing assumption — that secular rights trump religion — no longer holds.

A more multipolar world, America’s ambivalence, Europe’s decline and more competition from faith-based movements — all these forces put extreme pressure on a human rights model that is heavily Westernized and centralized in funding and organization. And so a paradox emerges. Achieving progress in civil and political rights, for example, might mean ceding ground in other areas such as social justice and women’s rights. All rights are equally important to the global human rights regime with which we are familiar. But for many of those who are poor, or committed to socialist politics, or deeply religious and/or conservative, both inside and outside the West, which rights deserve primacy requires discussion and compromise, not diktats from New York and Geneva.

The classic Human Rights Watch strategy of “naming and shaming” rights abusers is irrelevant in cases where, for example, the imposition of sharia law is considered desirable by those who must be shamed for change to happen. In the multipolar world, justice for acts of egregious violence may mean the death penalty — or it may mean outright forgiveness. This world may be one where women seeking an end to domestic violence and desirous of education for their daughters nevertheless oppose reproductive rights on principle. Or where the idea that children have rights they can claim against their parents, rather than obligations, seems to strike at the heart of the most valued social institution of all, the family.

In this world, religious groups of all kinds have an opportunity to play a greater role in struggles for freedom from hunger and repression than they have done in the decades when secular experts in development and human rights held sway. Pope Francis, Time magazine’s “Person of the Year,” has insisted that the church is not a nongovernmental organization — meaning it has more to offer than secular activism and advocacy. The church has a deeper, more powerful, more attractive and more important spiritual message to spread, he has said, surely recognizing that the weak grip of conventional Western human rights principles in individual communities is no match for the moral power of the church. The new pope’s seemingly more liberal stanceson social issues and his critique of capitalism may make him a better bet for radical change — he can in principle mobilize a billion people — than the rather arid, dry and legalistic claims of secular human rights advocates.

What the classical human rights movement has achieved is the recognition of each human being as the moral equal of all others. This is a massive feat. But the nationalist, authoritarian and conservative-religious backlash against the language and practices of secular human rights opens the need for alternative forms of mobilization, of which conventional human rights — meaning civil and political rights diffused from the West — will be just one part.

We are waking from the European dream of one world under global, secular law. The result may be a reinvigorated universal church. Or it may be parallel and permanent zones of freedom and zones of repression, and a global middle class seeking desperately to move themselves, or at least their children, from one to another.
Πηγή: Washington Post

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Session - Stephen Hopgood: The Endtimes of Human Rights (and Humanitarianism?)




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