Regarding Rights

Academic and activist perspectives on human rights


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Normative Esperanto? A Closer Look at the Proposed Indicatorisation of the Right to Development in the UN

Declaration on RTDBy Siobhán Airey

There is now a very solid body of literature, both scholarly and practice-focused, on the relationship between indicators and human rights. It addresses pragmatic considerations (how indicators can develop precision on the normative content of human rights, especially for socio-economic human rights, and aid the monitoring of states’ duties to fulfill their international human rights obligations); political considerations (how the use of indicators can result in shifts in relationships between different policy spheres and their institutional mechanisms and human rights, and between human rights actors such as rights-holders and duty-bearers and those with responsibility for monitoring those institutions and actors); epistemological questions with normative effects (how indicators can foreground certain kinds of knowledge and ways of seeing the world and, through their use in a human rights context, can shape what we think a human right might be). This work can also illuminate the role of indicators, especially in a human rights context, in helping to solidify the “legality” of human rights norms (helping them become more “law-like”).

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Creativity Calls: Designing a Monitoring Body for the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

World Conference on Indigenous Peoples' Opening Plenary Meeting and adoption of the Conference Outcome Document, 22 September 2014, New York.  Photo: Shane Brown, Indigenous Global Coordinating Group Media Team

World Conference on Indigenous Peoples’ Opening Plenary Meeting and adoption of the Conference Outcome Document, 22 September 2014, New York.
Photo: Shane Brown, Indigenous Global Coordinating Group Media Team

By Fleur Adcock

National Centre for Indigenous Studies

Calls for an international mechanism to monitor implementation of the 2007 United Nations (UN) Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (the Declaration) are growing louder. The Declaration is the most comprehensive articulation of the contours of Indigenous peoples’ rights. The product of more than two decades of intensive negotiations and lobbying by Indigenous peoples and their supporters, it affirms Indigenous peoples’ rights to internal self-determination, their lands and resources, culture, equality and development, amongst others. As a non-budgetary resolution of the UN General Assembly the Declaration is not strictly binding in the way that a UN treaty is. Yet, aspects of the Declaration form part of customary international law. Since the Declaration’s adoption, the idea of a monitoring mechanism has been raised both informally and formally. But in the past year the idea has gained momentum. Continue Reading →


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The Impunity Dilemma: Sexual Offences by UN Peacekeepers

A Ghanaian peacekeeper serving with the United Nations Mission in Liberia, on guard duty during a visit by the Special Representative Karin Landgren, in Cestos City, Liberia, Friday 16, November, 2012. UNMIL Photo/Staton Winter

A Ghanaian peacekeeper serving with the United Nations Mission in Liberia, on guard duty during a visit by the Special Representative Karin Landgren, in Cestos City, Liberia, Friday 16, November, 2012.
UNMIL Photo/Staton Winter

By Róisín Burke

Irish Centre for Human Rights, National University of Ireland Galway

In recent months several leaked UN reports revealed that sexual offences by peacekeepers, UN and others, is rampant. This is not a new phenomenon. Sexual exploitation and abuse by UN peacekeepers has been a significant problem for the UN since at least the 1990s. Incidents have included alleged and proven cases of rape, gang rape, pedophilia, prostitution, and other forms of sexual exploitation and abuse across numerous UN operations.[1] Continue Reading →


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Indignation, not engagement: Australia’s response to international criticism of asylum seeker detention

Juan Mendez, UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Photo: http://www.unmultimedia.org

Juan Mendez, UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
Photo: http://www.unmultimedia.org

By Cynthia Banham

Centre for International Governance and Justice

The Abbott government’s recent outrage at the United Nations over a finding by the Special Rapporteur on torture that Australia’s asylum seeker policies violate international law has a very familiar ring. Continue Reading →


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Tainted UN Peacekeepers: Reportage from the Ground

Image from www.un.org

Image from www.un.org

By Mandira Sharma and Ingrid Massage, Advocacy Forum-Nepal, and Suhas Chakma, Ben Schonveld, and Kathryn Johnson, Asian Centre for Human Rights

Can the UN allow its staff to violate human rights?

The United Nations (UN) employs one of the largest armies in the world. Currently, it has more than 97,000 uniformed personnel (military and police) coming from over 110 countries and the number has been steadily growing. Continue Reading →


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The Internationalist Dream

By Hilary Charlesworth

Kofi Annan speaking at a World Organisation Against Torture meeting in Geneva in 2010. Portrayed in the painting is banker Jean-Gabriel Eynard, Geneva’s ambassador to the Congress of Vienna in 1815.  Image by Pierre Abensur http://tinyurl.com/lj35tr4

Kofi Annan speaking at a World Organisation Against Torture meeting in Geneva in 2010. Portrayed in the painting is banker Jean-Gabriel Eynard, Geneva’s ambassador to the Congress of Vienna in 1815.
Image by Pierre Abensur http://tinyurl.com/lj35tr4

Centre for International Governance and Justice, RegNet, ANU

Regarding Rights is pleased to publish Hilary Charlesworth’s review of two recent books, Kofi Annan’s memoir (co-written with Nader Mousavizadeh) Interventions: A Life in War and Peace, and Mark Mazower’s Governing the World: The History of an Idea. This review first appeared on Inside Story.

Kofi Annan’s memoir and Mark Mazower’s intellectual history of the international realm complement each other nicely. Annan’s book recounts some of his experiences as a senior official of the United Nations, including nearly a decade as secretary-general from 1997, all linked by the possibilities of international intervention. It is a personal account of events such as NATO’s intervention in Kosovo in 1999, the adoption of the Millennium Development Goals in 2001, East Timor’s path to independence in 2002 and the invasion of Iraq in 2003. The focus is Annan’s own engagement with and reflections on these occurrences. The tone is one of pride and, occasionally, ruefulness. Mazower has a more ambitious and critical agenda: to chronicle the concept of international cooperation from its first appearance in the eighteenth century until today. Continue Reading →