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Evidence for Hope: Making Human Rights Work in the 21st Century

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A history of the successes of the human rights movement and a case for why human rights work Evidence for Hope makes the case that, yes, human rights work. Critics may counter that the movement is in serious jeopardy or even a questionable byproduct of Western imperialism. They point out that Guant�namo is still open, the Arab Spring protests have been crushed, and governme A history of the successes of the human rights movement and a case for why human rights work Evidence for Hope makes the case that, yes, human rights work. Critics may counter that the movement is in serious jeopardy or even a questionable byproduct of Western imperialism. They point out that Guant�namo is still open, the Arab Spring protests have been crushed, and governments are cracking down on NGOs everywhere. But respected human rights expert Kathryn Sikkink draws on decades of research and fieldwork to provide a rigorous rebuttal to pessimistic doubts about human rights laws and institutions. She demonstrates that change comes slowly and as the result of struggle, but in the long term, human rights movements have been vastly effective. Attacks on the human rights movement's credibility are based on the faulty premise that human rights ideas emerged in North America and Europe and were imposed on developing southern nations. Starting in the 1940s, Latin American leaders and activists were actually early advocates for the international protection of human rights. Sikkink shows that activists and scholars disagree about the efficacy of human rights because they use different yardsticks to measure progress. Comparing the present to the past, she shows that genocide and violence against civilians have declined over time, while access to healthcare and education has increased dramatically. Cognitive and news biases contribute to pervasive cynicism, but Sikkink's investigation into past and current trends indicates that human rights is not in its twilight. Instead, this is a period of vibrant activism that has made impressive improvements in human well-being. Exploring the strategies that have led to real humanitarian gains since the middle of the twentieth century, Evidence for Hope looks at how these essential advances can be supported and sustained for decades to come.


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A history of the successes of the human rights movement and a case for why human rights work Evidence for Hope makes the case that, yes, human rights work. Critics may counter that the movement is in serious jeopardy or even a questionable byproduct of Western imperialism. They point out that Guant�namo is still open, the Arab Spring protests have been crushed, and governme A history of the successes of the human rights movement and a case for why human rights work Evidence for Hope makes the case that, yes, human rights work. Critics may counter that the movement is in serious jeopardy or even a questionable byproduct of Western imperialism. They point out that Guant�namo is still open, the Arab Spring protests have been crushed, and governments are cracking down on NGOs everywhere. But respected human rights expert Kathryn Sikkink draws on decades of research and fieldwork to provide a rigorous rebuttal to pessimistic doubts about human rights laws and institutions. She demonstrates that change comes slowly and as the result of struggle, but in the long term, human rights movements have been vastly effective. Attacks on the human rights movement's credibility are based on the faulty premise that human rights ideas emerged in North America and Europe and were imposed on developing southern nations. Starting in the 1940s, Latin American leaders and activists were actually early advocates for the international protection of human rights. Sikkink shows that activists and scholars disagree about the efficacy of human rights because they use different yardsticks to measure progress. Comparing the present to the past, she shows that genocide and violence against civilians have declined over time, while access to healthcare and education has increased dramatically. Cognitive and news biases contribute to pervasive cynicism, but Sikkink's investigation into past and current trends indicates that human rights is not in its twilight. Instead, this is a period of vibrant activism that has made impressive improvements in human well-being. Exploring the strategies that have led to real humanitarian gains since the middle of the twentieth century, Evidence for Hope looks at how these essential advances can be supported and sustained for decades to come.

30 review for Evidence for Hope: Making Human Rights Work in the 21st Century

  1. 5 out of 5

    Christopher Allen

    Excellent portrayal of human rights efforts reflective of a global approach in its inception, implementation, and ultimately, as the solution to global inequality. “Human rights do not let the ends justify the means because the means are also the ends. In other words, if the well-being and rights of individual humans are the ends we seek, abusing those rights cannot be the means to that end.”

  2. 4 out of 5

    Leanne

    This is a great overview of an important topic. The language is verrrry academic though, to the tune of: "Uruguay and the countries campaigning to protect the right to health acquired no less an ally than comedian John Oliver, whose send-up of Phillip Morris's obvious greed and cynicism was as hilarious as it was well researched." This is a great overview of an important topic. The language is verrrry academic though, to the tune of: "Uruguay and the countries campaigning to protect the right to health acquired no less an ally than comedian John Oliver, whose send-up of Phillip Morris's obvious greed and cynicism was as hilarious as it was well researched."

  3. 4 out of 5

    Matthew

    An essential look at the history and present state of human rights in the world and one that rightly puts it in a positive light.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Alexandra

    Good book to read for a Human Rights course - would not recommend outside of an academic setting.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Ietrio

    Apparently human rights is something the flourishes when paper pushers like Sikkink are well fed and they die once the grants become more scarce.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan

    Kathryn Sikkink’s “Evidence for Hope” is exactly what its title conveys: empirical evidence to help encourage the work of human rights advocates and activists. It is a lucid, well-researched, and well-structured. Looking around the world today, one can often feel as though human rights are on the retreat—with new political figures like Trump and Duterte, aggressive attacks on civil society in places like Russia and Israel, attacks on the press by states and on indigenous populations by states an Kathryn Sikkink’s “Evidence for Hope” is exactly what its title conveys: empirical evidence to help encourage the work of human rights advocates and activists. It is a lucid, well-researched, and well-structured. Looking around the world today, one can often feel as though human rights are on the retreat—with new political figures like Trump and Duterte, aggressive attacks on civil society in places like Russia and Israel, attacks on the press by states and on indigenous populations by states and extractive corporations, not to mention the atrocities committed by groups like ISIS. The list goes on. And there can often be a disingenuousness in human rights discourse—when countries absolve their allies of responsibility for human rights (see the US’s double standard on Iran and Saudi Arabia, for one), when Saudi Arabia gets to chair the UN Human Rights Council, when countries like the US get to commit war crimes with impunity, and when the mantra of “human rights” is invoked to justify wars that always seem to make the problems worse. Human rights discourse and practice can be attacked by those who don’t care and those who protest the sanctimonious of those who don’t care. But is there no hope left for human rights? Don’t give up so easily, counsels Sikkink, a Professor of Human Rights Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School. In this book, she sets out to (1) respond to the critics of the legitimacy and effectiveness of human rights, (2) highlight the diverse political origins of human rights, (3) convey the advances that have been made through human rights advocacy and activism, and (4) chart a path forward. Sikkink, well-versed in Latin American history, stresses the contributions of Latin American jurists, academics, and activists to landmark documents in the history of human rights, like the UN Declaration of Human Rights. Countries from the Global South were the main advocates of the inclusion of strong human rights language—not the US and Europe, as many might mistakenly think. And, as she explains in her chapter on Cold War struggles, human rights advocacy has a robust history in the Latin American left, where it was essential to pushing back against right-wing dictatorships. Sikkink faults those who criticize the effectiveness of human rights of relying on a comparison to the ideal, rather than analyzing empirical progress. She highlights the many ways in which, over the past seventy years, we have made advances toward realizing the goals expressed in the UDHR and in bringing some accountability to the crimes committed in the Cold War (and since). Human rights activists will often be disappointed because there is so much work left to do, and because the concept of human rights is expandable. We are always broadening our idea of what counts as a “right,” so the bar is always being set higher. But an understanding of victories past is vital to being able to fight the good fight in the present and future without resorting to despair. Sikkink points out the fundamental flaws of the logic so often invoked by humanitarian interventionists in the US. War, as Sikkink makes clear, is one of the prime causes of human rights violations. So war as a solution to human rights violations is a stretch. That doesn’t mean that war is *never* justified; the hurdle should just be set very high because there’s a strong chance that more damage will be done in the process. One of Sikkink’s most striking observations is how the rhetoric used against Islamic fundamentalist terrorism in the post-9/11 era strongly resembles the rhetoric used against communists in Latin America during the Cold War. Demonization combined with a belief that ends justify the means can only lead to disaster. With human rights, the ends and means must be the same; you cannot violate human rights for the sake of human rights. It just doesn’t work. Sikkink stresses the importance of economic rights and the reduction of poverty and inequality of fully realizing human rights, and explains how street activists, NGOs, jurists, and bureaucrats all have a role to play in holding leaders at all level to account. “Evidence for Hope” is a very timely read, and—something that many people need this year—an uplifting one.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Thomas

  8. 4 out of 5

    K G

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jackie

  10. 4 out of 5

    Friederike

  11. 5 out of 5

    Marie

  12. 4 out of 5

    Roksana

  13. 5 out of 5

    Ella Miles-Urdan

  14. 4 out of 5

    Claire

  15. 5 out of 5

    Fred Shaia

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jackie Nagtegaal

  17. 5 out of 5

    itsyoudaya

  18. 5 out of 5

    Cora D

  19. 5 out of 5

    Justyna.P

  20. 4 out of 5

    Agustín

  21. 4 out of 5

    Pedro Pontual

  22. 4 out of 5

    Jila

  23. 4 out of 5

    AndreeaElena

  24. 4 out of 5

    Lexi Nasse

  25. 5 out of 5

    Luis Barrueto

  26. 5 out of 5

    Roger

  27. 5 out of 5

    Plupptroll

  28. 4 out of 5

    Euchari Majors

  29. 4 out of 5

    Katherine

  30. 4 out of 5

    Alexandra

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