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15 Harv. Hum. Rts. J. 101 (2002)
International Human Rights Movement: Part of the Problem?

handle is hein.journals/hhrj15 and id is 105 raw text is: The International Human Rights
Movement: Part of the Problem?-
David Kennedy
There is no question that the international human rights movement has
done a great deal of good, freeing individuals from great harm, providing an
emancipatory vocabulary and institutional machinery for people across the
globe, raising the standards by which governments judge one another, and
by which they are judged, both by their own people, and by the elites we
refer to collectively as the international community. A career in the human
rights movement has provided thousands of professionals, many of them
lawyers, with a sense of dignity and confidence that one sometimes can do
well while doing good. The literature praising these, and other, accom-
plishments is vast. Among well-meaning legal professionals in the United
States and Europe-humanist, internationalist, liberal, compassionate in all
the best senses of these terms-the human rights movement has become a
central object of devotion.
But there are other ways of thinking about human rights. As a well-
meaning internationalist and, I hope, compassionate legal professional my-
self, I thought it might be useful to pull together in a short list some of the
questions that have been raised about international human rights by people,
including myself, who worry that the human rights movement might, on
balance, and acknowledging its enormous achievement, be more part of the
problem in today's world than part of the solution. This Essay offers an in-
complete and idiosyncratic list of such questions that might be of interest to
the human rights practitioner.
I should say at the outset that the arguments I have listed are hypotheses.
I have stated them as succinctly as I can, at the risk of their seeming conclu-
sive or overly polemical. In fact, although some of them seem more plausible
to me than others, to my knowledge none of them has been proven-they
are in the air as assertions, worries, polemical charges. They circulate in the
background of conversations about the human rights movement. And even
* This Article was originally published in the European Human Rights Law Review, Issue 3. 20l.
and is reprinted here for a wider readership.
** Henry Shattuck Professor of Law, Harvard Law School. Let me thank a number of fn-nds who
brainstormed with me about this list, often by offering withenng criticism of the posiuons ,dv n-d
here: Jim Bergeron, Yishai Blank, Hilary Charlesworth, Janet Hally, Vasula Nestah, Jorl Ngugi. Pat
Macklem, Susan Marks, Scott Newton, Philippe Sands, Hani Sayed, Natalia Schdffnn. Amr Shalakany.
Thomas Skoureris, Henry Steiner, Chantal Thomas.

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