30 novKate Nash (University of London), « Universalism in Practice », Monday January 18th 2010

Kate Nash (University of London)

Universalism in Practice: between the Law and Human Rights

Human rights are formally universal, applying equally to all human beings on the planet. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is also an attempt to make human rights universal in content, stipulating that they must apply to “Everyone…without distinction of any kind” (Article 2). Increasingly too, the principle of universal rights is becoming legal as well as moral, as international human rights law becomes more detailed and dense, especially through judgements made in courts, national and international. At the same time, however, the world continues to be organised into states that are territorially bounded and historically associated with struggles for democracy linked to sovereignty and nationalism. As they are legalised, human rights are increasingly positioned as ‘intermestic rights’, ‘in between’ national and international law. In practice (in part as a function of the proliferation of sites at which it is decided) law is uncertain and unpredictable with regard to enforcing human rights. Realising human rights ideals in practice will always be controversial; realising such ideals will never become simply a matter of ensuring the rule of law.

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