Author Archives: Roland Burke

About Roland Burke

is a lecturer in history at La Trobe University. His principal area of research is the history of human rights. He is the author of Decolonization and the Evolution of International Human Rights(Pennsylvania, 2010), and was the recipient of the Crawford Medal (2010) for early career scholarship from the Australian Academy of the Humanities. At present, he is completing a manuscript on the intellectual history of arguments against the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, provisionally entitled Human Rights in Eclipse.

Competing for the Last Utopia? The NIEO, Human Rights, and the World Conference for the International Women’s Year, Mexico City, June 1975

In the mid-1970s, the United Nations hosted a dramatic attempt to totally transform the world economy, which appeared to be on the cusp of victory at the Sixth Special Session of the General Assembly in April and May 1974. In a moment that represented the highest tide of southern self-confidence, the Group of 77 (G-77), unleavened by the language of compromise, demanded global redistribution as a matter of right. The manifestos of this revolt of sovereigns were the Declaration on the Establishment of a New Continue reading → Continue reading →

Some Rights Are More Equal than Others: The Third World and the Transformation of Economic and Social Rights

Burke argues for the decisive influence of the Third World on the development of economic and social rights in the postwar human rights program. For states confronting extreme poverty and underdevelopment, the urgency of securing these rights was a constant refrain. Yet the challenge of delivering them in the context of immense resource constraints soon led to significant departures from the accepted formulation of the 1948 Universal Declaration, which held all rights in an organic unity. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the Third World campaign would compromise their very character as “rights” wielded by the individual, transforming them instead into interstate claims far removed from the citizen.

Another response to Jan Eckel

In his impressive review article, Jan Eckel develops a detailed survey of the interaction between human rights and decolonization. Most of all, he argues that the place of human rights in decolonization was both more complex and more ambiguous than has been suggested in the works under review, both my own and Fabian Klose’s German-language monograph.