How the Global South Shaped the International Human Rights System

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Trygve Lie Center

International Peace Institute

12th Floor

New York, NY 10017

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This year, the UN celebrates the 50th anniversary of the adoption of the International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights and Social, Economic and Cultural Rights, as well as the 10th anniversary of the establishment of the Human Rights Council. Looking forward, the international community has recognized that the promotion and protection of human rights is a key element in realizing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and in achieving lasting peace. Indeed, respect for human rights is fundamental in ensuring that no one is left behind and in preventing and resolving violence and conflict.

However, some discussions about human rights are marred by the perception that human rights—and the UN system that promotes and protects these rights—is a Western project, conceived and pushed by Western states, sometimes against the will of the Global South. But this perception is based on an incomplete reading of the factual history of the international human rights system. A recently published study –The Making of International Human Rights: The 1960s, Decolonization, and the Reconstruction of Global Values–demonstrates that much of the international human rights system that we see today, both in its normative and institutional aspects, was constructed and shaped by states from the Global South, with Ghana, Jamaica, Liberia and the Philippines taking on a lead role.

The event on July 13th will take place at IPI on the sidelines of the high-level thematic debate of the UN General Assembly entitled, “Human Rights at the Centre of the Global Agenda,” taking place at the UN on July 12th and July 13th.

Speakers at the event will discuss the following questions:

  • Can revisiting the history of the international human rights system influence the dynamics of political negotiations today, especially in the contexts of implementing the SDGs and the role of human rights in sustaining peace?
  • Could such an exercise contribute to mobilizing greater political will to engage constructively on human rights challenges among governments and the broader public?

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Trygve Lie Center

International Peace Institute

12th Floor

New York, NY 10017

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Organizer IPI

Organizer of How the Global South Shaped the International Human Rights System

IPI is an independent, international not-for-profit think tank dedicated to promoting the prevention and settlement of conflicts between and within states by strengthening international peace and security institutions.

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