book review

Harvard
international relations scholar and human rights expert Kathryn Sikkink attempts to answer a core and basis question
in her latest book: dDo
human rights work? Although the U.S.-owned
Guantanamo prison may still be open, the Arab Spring protests have been largely crushed, and
certain governments are cracking down on NGOsplagiarism, Sikkink
believes human rights does work. In her captivating tome, Evidence for Hope: Making Human Rights Work in the 21st Century,
Sikkink rebuts doubts and pessimism, and makes her case by drawing on
decades of empirical evidence and fieldwork to abet the work of human
rights defenders and activists. Sikkink explains her motivation: “I write this
bookspace…spacefor
people on the front lines of human rights work who say they have lost hope,” including
human rights advocates, the general American public, as well as those who share
similar broad concerns. Sikkink helps shrug off defeatism by reiterating that change
comes slowly and as the result of struggle, but indicates that, in the long
term, human rights movements have been vastly effective (6).

 

Whether in academia, the media, or even when discussed by the
general public, human rights and their
efficacy are typically associated with much criticism. And yet,
human rights abuses are known to be growing worldwide and have been accepted as
a serious concern. While Sikkink’s tome book is
not necessarily intended to quiet hostile audiences, she does, however,
reclaim powerful human
rights lessons and rectifies common misunderstandings to advocate for more
proactive, well-informed action at a time when this is truly
neededplagiarism. Unlike
other, conventional works in the field, Evidence for Hope combines scientificconsistency
in addressing major, contemporary criticisms of human rights, with the ability
topropose an objective means of promoting them exactly where they are most
crucial through several policy recommendations.

 

Sikkink begins her book with a careful review of the history of
international human rights laws, institutions, and movements around the world.When
it comes to human rights, it is clear that Sikkink is particularly concerned by
both theirlegitimacy and effectiveness. By legitimacy of human rights,
she means the “generalized perception that a movement or institution is
desirable, appropriate and authentic,” and by effectiveness, “whether human
rights work produces positive change in the world” (8). Unlike what most assume
is an effort of North America and Europe, Sikkink reminds readers that the legitimacy
of humanrights has been brought to fruition in a range of contexts and
comprises diverse origins: from Latin American jurists, diplomats, andactivists
in the 1940s who envisioned and advocated for international human rights law to
a variety of states in Asia, Africa,and the Middle East which took the lead in
the 1960s and 1970s toshape the first international human rights institutions.Sikkinkthus
makes a strong case for seeing national human rights movements as part of a
global movement. However, when it comes to human rights’ effectiveness, she
deems that the march of human rights is unavoidably slow, cumulative and
struggle-driven. This aspectof the phenomena has likelycontributed to the present pessimism felt even
by those whowork in the field.plagiraism from:

https://academic.oup.com/ia/article-pdf/94/1/190/22932821/iix255.pdf

 

 

After the Second World War,the human rights movement demonstrated
that less powerful actors, rather than those powerful ones,tookthe lead to
enforce the international protection of human rights. That said, they were more
successful when they had powerful allies. A case in point is the the UN Charter
and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). Sikkink points out that
“Latin American states, other small states and NGOs” (88) were able to persuade
powerful states to incorporate human rights in the UN. For instance, while
drafting the UDHR, the first article was “all men are born free and equal in
dignity and rights,” but it was Hansa Mehta, the Indian representative, that
objected. WhileEleanor Roosevelt, chair of the UN Commission, was not convinced
to change it, Mehta and other delegates insisted and lobbied until the text was
eventually altered to read “all human beings”(83). Sikkink shows how it was
mainly the underdogs, weak states, and colonial countries, which were in search
for equality and dignity, that indeed spearheaded the processes of including
the protection of human rights on the international stage.

 

Later, however, during the period of Cold War,especially from the
1940s to 1960s, the human rights conceptfaced turmoil and discord.plagiarism A number of
countries in the Global South were strugglingto keep the momentum of human
rights alive. Some countries were making their way towards embracing democracy
and human rights, but this was interrupted by superpowers. Important lessons
from the Cold War highlightedthat “you cannot save democracy by destroying it”
and “[no one] can build democracy from outside” (131). Yet these words were not
heeded then, nor, in fact, are they heeded now. In the Iran of the early 1950s,for
instance, Mohammad Mosaddeq rose to power as the leader of the National Front
coalition and he had “organized support of democracy and against foreign
intervention” (108). Later,Mosaddeq was elected as prime minister by the Iranianparliament,
but he was forcibly removed via a CIA-backed coup. This occurred because the US
was fearful that Iran would fall into communist influence, or the Soviet Union would
invade the country. This coup conversely resulted intheconclusionof democracy
in Iran and “led to political repression, especially of the[communist] Tudeh
Party” (109). Despite this case, the intervention of global powers has
continued in other countries and, on account of various consequences, resulted
in the fomenting of authoritarianism.

 

In one section of her book, Sikkink also discusses human rightsachievements
by offering comparative statistics on the number of people killed inwars, on
the use of the death penalty, newborn mortality, and women’s education. Despite
cognitive and news biases that have contributed to cynicism, all of the
statistics, in fact, point to similar movements of positive change. With empirical
evidence, Sikkink argues that the human rights situation around the globeis actually
much better thanever before. She nevertheless overviews the growing challenges
of human rights, such as refugee protection, torture, disappearances,
extrajudicial execution, rape, and issues relating to new expanded rights for sexual
minorities and those with disabilities. While she explains that some of these
problems have existed since the olden days, we are now able to have access to
moreaccurate and comprehensive data for the purposes of policy change and
advocacy.

 

Sikkink further contendsthat, today, there is more justice than
ever in terms of accountability.In the early past, therewas no actualchargeagainst
the rulers who oppressed their own citizens. It was onlyin the 1900s, for the
firsttime, thatstate and non-state actors could be held accountable for human
rights violations; termed by Sikkink as a “justice cascade” (209). She argues
even very tough authoritarian leaderscould now be held accountable, and this became
a very important achievement for human rights advocates. The justice cascade
has thus enabled the victims of human rights violations to appeal for justice
through a range of national and international mechanisms.

 

To improve the global human rights situation, Sikkink, towards the
end of the book, provides solutions for policy change.They include: the
avoidance of war and violent solutions and the pursuit of non-violent
solutions,the provision of ground for thepromotion of homegrown democracies, the
promotion of economic growth and equality, the sidelining of dehumanizing and
exclusionary ideologies, the furtherratification of treatiesand the enforcement
of existing human rights instruments, the endofimpunity through extended
accountabilityprocesses, and, finally, the expansion of support and protection
of human rights mobilization.

 

Sikkink’s tome is very well researched, exhibits a pleasant writing
style, and contains valuable data. It also employs applied history, theory, and
pertinent human rights cases which altogether makes the book more captivating
and engrossing to the reader. That said, however, there are two bones of
contention one must grapple with.One has to do with the use of empirical
comparisons to demonstrate human rights progress. Without a proper, realistic
baseline to measure the improvement of the human rights situation in different
countries over time, there is a risk of having an artificial and illusionary
progress of human rights throughout history, especially seeing as different
activists and scholars utilize different yardsticks to measure progress. A
second issue with Sikkink’s analysis is her overall generalization of events. One
must accept that the ability of human rights is less than its inability. The generalization
of fewsuccess stories from Latin America will not help to solve all otherproblems.

 

Overall, however, Sikkink’s book is apronouncedexample of the
effective use ofapplied history for problem-solving and policy advice. In
today’s world, in whichrigorous creative thinking
onpresent and future human rights challengesisincreasingly imperative, Evidence
for Hope illustrates that, for effective progress to transpire, there
should not linger stringentboundaries between being, thinking, and doing in the
field of human rights.