The Doctors of Hubei and the Grace of the Caregiver in Crisis

Li Wenliang, Liu Zhiming, Xu Depu, Peng Yinhua, Xia Sisi: these are the names of some of the doctors that have died while treating COVID-19 patients in Hubei Province in China, according to media reports. As of late February, 3,387 health workers in China have reportedly been infected; at least 18 of these have died. Some of the earliest cases of community transmission of the disease in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia have likewise afflicted frontline health workers. Images circulating in the Continue reading →

Beyond and Against the State: Anarchist Contributions to Human Rights History and Theory

Abstract: Scholars of human rights have grappled with tensions between universal rights and state sovereignty. By incorporating the turn of the century anarchist conception of human rights against the state into the broader history of human rights, we gain an alternative vantage point to assess this fraught relationship. This article briefly surveys transnational anarchist activism against state atrocities before focusing on the implications of anarchist conceptions of natural, equal, universal rights for our understandings of freedom and autonomy. Continue reading →

Saving the Slaving Child: Domestic Work, Labor Trafficking, and the Politics of Rescue in India

Abstract: In recent years, anti-trafficking NGOs in New Delhi have highlighted the exploitative aspects of domestic work in India, rescuing impoverished young rural migrant girls brought by unregulated “placement agencies” to work in urban homes. This article examines how these donor-driven NGOs employ the U.S.-driven, globally pervasive frameworks of human trafficking and “modern-day slavery,” while working within the provisions of postcolonial Indian laws, and conducting rescues with the local police. Through ethnographic observations of a rescue operation, the article explores what it means to save Continue reading → Continue reading →

Introduction: Human Rights and Economic Inequality

Abstract: The introduction situates this dossier on “Human Rights and Inequality” within broader scholarly and policy debates about the relationship between human rights and economic inequality, specifically about the extent to which human rights do, can, or should attend to economic inequality. It draws out the key arguments of each of the contributions and puts them in conversation with one another by describing the different strands and traditions of human rights scholarship and practice with which the various authors engage. Along the way, the introduction Continue reading → Continue reading →

Inequality, Human Rights, and Social Rights: Tensions and Complementarities

Abstract: Economic inequality is increasingly recognized as one of the main problems of our time. But what human rights have to say about it? Are human rights effective tools for tackling inequality, as human rights practitioners have argued, or are they powerless and inadequate tools to challenge inequality in the age of neoliberalism, as stated recently by Yale’s professor Samuel Moyn? This article examines the complex relations between economic inequality and human rights, especially economic and social rights (ESR), by exploring the arguments behind these Continue reading → Continue reading →

Human Rights in an Unequal World: Structural Inequalities and the Imperative for Global Cooperation

Abstract: Efforts to realize social and economic rights are currently being exercised in a context of extreme inequalities in the distribution of income and wealth. This question of the impact of global inequalities on the realization of rights and development objectives extends to inequalities in power dynamics and policy space. The economic interdependencies that structure the global economy mean that the actions of governments in influential economies frequently constrain the ability of other countries to fully support the enjoyment of rights. This essay explores the Continue reading → Continue reading →

Global Inequality and Human Rights: An Odd Couple

Abstract: In the current phase of global and national economic development, income inequality has become a widespread concern. This article focuses on what it calls “toxic inequality” in the United States that is attributed to several elements including the underlying individualism associated with capitalism and the tendency of neoliberal globalization to exert pressures that minimize social protection of vulnerable parts of the population. International law has not been effective in protecting societies against the disruptive effects of inequality, including its de-democratizing effects brought about by Continue reading → Continue reading →

The Imperative of Redistribution in an Age of Ecological Overshoot: Human Rights and Global Inequality

Abstract: Legal scholars worry that the human rights framework offers little leverage against the problem of economic inequality. By contrast, I argue that Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (the right to an adequate standard of living) does provide such leverage. Given the realities of ecological overshoot, if we want to ratchet up the incomes of the poor in order to satisfy their rights under Article 25, we can no longer rely on the usual strategy of aggregate economic growth. Instead, this Continue reading → Continue reading →

Inequality, Human Rights, and the New International Economic Order

Abstract: Redressing global inequality was one of the key concerns of the Third World campaign to create a New International Economic Order (NIEO). However, human rights played no role in the NIEO which focused instead on transforming the international investment and trade regimes. This essay argues that the Third World countries were largely correct in their analysis of the limits of human rights. It draws upon insights of the NIEO experience to suggest why, in more recent times, human rights have largely failed to address Continue reading → Continue reading →

Righting Inequality: Human Rights Responses to Economic Inequality in the United Nations

Abstract: This essay examines how UN human rights bodies engaged with the problem of economic inequality at different historical moments. It considers how the question of economic inequality was taken up in three different periods: in the period of human rights standard setting and implementation (1945-1968); during a period of global contestation and demands for a New International Economic Order (1968-1989); and finally during a period of growing neoliberal hegemony (1990-present). It suggests that considering the ways in which institutional debates within the UN have Continue reading → Continue reading →