Hurst Hannum, Professor of International Law at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University, discusses his new book, 'Rescuing Human Rights: A Radically Moderate Approach.' In it, Professor Hannum calls for understanding human rights as international human rights law, and as distinct from broader issues of ethics, politics and social change.
The momentum of the human rights movement has slowed. While the primary obstacle to the full implementation of rights remains recalcitrant governments, other problems have arisen from the changing attitudes of human rights activists, practitioners, and NGOs themselves. The proliferation of new rights, linking rights to issues such as prosecuting international crimes or regulating business, and attempting to address every social problem from a human rights perspective risk undermining their credibility. Rescuing Human Rights argues that maintaining the distinction between binding legal obligations on governments and broader issues of ethics, politics, and social change is essential, before the rights edifice topples under its own weight. It is time to recognize the inherent limits as well as the potential of international human rights law, if we hope to preserve the principle that we all have rights, simply because we are human.
Hurst Hannum has authored numerous books and articles on human rights and has served as counsel and advocate before European, inter-American, and UN human rights institutions. He was a visiting researcher at the Bonavero Institute during the Michaelmas Term in 2017.