Human rights practices have improved significantly throughout Latin America during the 1990s, but different degrees of legalization are not the main explanation for these changes. We examine state compliance with three primary norms of international human rights law: the prohibition against torture, the prohibition against disappearance, and the right to democratic governance. Although these norms vary in their degree of obligation, precision, and delegation, states have improved their practices in all three issue-areas. The least amount of change has occurred in the most highly legalized issue-area—the prohibition against torture. We argue that a broad regional norm shift—a “norms cascade”—has led to increased regional and international consensus with respect to an interconnected bundle of human rights norms, including the three discussed in this article. These norms are reinforced by diverse legal and political enforcement mechanisms that help to implement and ensure compliance with them.
Research on international norms has yet to answer satisfactorily some of our own most important questions about the origins of norms and the conditions under which some norms win out over others. The authors argue that international relations (IR) theorists should engage more with research in moral psychology and neuroscience to advance theories of norm emergence and resonance. This Element first provides an overview of six areas of research in neuroscience and moral psychology that hold particular promise for norms theorists and international relations theory more generally. It next surveys existing literature in IR to see how literature from moral psychology is already being put to use, and then recommends a research agenda for norms researchers engaging with this literature. The authors do not believe that this exchange should be a one-way street, however, and they discuss various ways in which the IR literature on norms may be of interest and of use to moral psychologists, and of use to advocacy communities.
Why we cannot truly implement human rights unless we also recognize human responsibilities
When we debate questions in international law, politics, and justice, we often use the language of rights—and far less often the language of responsibilities. Human rights scholars and activists talk about state responsibility for rights, but they do not articulate clear norms about other actors’ obligations. In this book, Kathryn Sikkink argues that we cannot truly implement human rights unless we also recognize and practice the corresponding human responsibilities.
Focusing on five areas—climate change, voting, digital privacy, freedom of speech, and sexual assault—where on-the-ground (primarily university campus) initiatives have persuaded people to embrace a close relationship between rights and responsibilities, Sikkink argues for the importance of responsibilities to any comprehensive understanding of political ethics and human rights.