More Persuasion Needed

Discussions about persuading states to implement human rights frequently appeared in the end of last century. Back then many talked about the “curious grapevine,” an extraordinary tale of how NGOs, through their persuasion have made human rights a major item in international discourses, in the media, state chancelleries, and international institutions. An example of such discussion can be found here.

I think we need to revitalize this debate for different reasons.

  1. Human rights, despite the increasing popularity and acceptance, still need to answer questions concerning their relevance – especially compared to concepts such as autonomy or social justice.
  2. There are limits to human rights. In relation to inequality, political economy structures around the distribution of welfare have established human rights as helpless bystanders.
  3. Rights talks operate in different political spaces/levels. Although they definitely share a wall with those spaces where policies are made, measuring their impacts remains difficult. Rights talks are also not immune from the risk of depoliticization.

Compared to the situation in the late 90s, more developing countries, as well as countries that are considered authoritarian are now parties to major international human rights treaties. Debates on how to persuade states to implement human rights in the age of inequality are needed. Particularly discussions that consider how actions come from/are initiated by domestic forces and interest groups, using the accepted political cultures and strategies, can deliver meaningful persuasion.

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