Human Rights Violations in the 21st Century: Why they Demand Renewed International Cooperation
A brief survey of human affairs globally from the conclusion of World War II to the present will reveal no shortage of daunting concerns. Global pandemics, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, devastating environmental disasters, economic volatility, starvation and malnourishment and stateless terrorist associations wrecking destruction on anyone in their way are but some of the major issues facing humanity presently. It has commonly been agreed upon, in one recognizable form or another at least since the Napoleonic wars, that the world’s peoples have converging interests in security, stability and economic prosperity. Regrettably acknowledging this leaves fully in tact questions of exactly how those interests are to be determined and by whom. Nonetheless international institutions and regimes have been established, modified, disassembled and reestablished with different mandates; along the way their efforts have effected real achievement in many areas of human affairs.1 For today’s international challenges the countries and nations of this Earth are bestowed with the United Nations (UN), established in the immediate aftermath of the horrors of the Second World War. Among the UN’s purposes is ensuring the protection of universal human rights. With knowledge of the utter inhumanity of the Holocaust informing the architects’ design, the UN sought to establish an international norm (or standard) of respect for the individual’s rights (Wotipka and Tsutsui). Being inherent to all human beings without regard to social status or personal identity, they are meant to ensure that people across the globe have the opportunity to thrive in their environments free from oppression. And yet history and current political affairs provide a reality for much of the world’s populace out of step with this objective. From Myanmar today to El Salvador in the 1980’s, to Turkey in the late 1990’s to Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge, gross human rights violations persist. Be it denial of basic education based on gender, or whole scale gassing of populations based on ethnicity, governments in the modern world, as in the past, oppress and suppress in the name of stability and security with a heavy hand.
There is no doubt that the agendas before the great powers of the international system and their international institutions are overwhelming and that a painfully selective process for determining what to focus limited political will on is required. But it would be contrary to the founding purpose of the United Nations, undermine all of its operations and shame those of power and influence for the organization not to prioritize international collaboration on confronting human rights abuses. The feasible alternatives to international systematic cooperative efforts are extremely limited and likely undesirable for many. In the past the world has witnessed successful multilateral interventions that have given life to the ideals of the United Nations and other multilateral bodies. And finally the sheer magnitude and scope of gross human rights violations throughout the globe demands a collective pooling of the world’s available resources lest we permit instability and injustice of the highest sort to determine our future. For these reasons it is paramount that today’s global leaders work diligently to promote a new regime capable of confronting grave and moderate human rights violations as defined by the United Nations and peoples of this planet. One of the main and immediate criticisms given to proposing a global force charged with protecting human rights is that it would necessarily violate the well established international norm of state-sovereignty. “How a state treats its citizens within its borders is no one’s concern save the country’s population and its ruling authority.” This amounts to claiming that an armed body...
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