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Lafont, Christina, , . Accountability and Global Governance: Challenging the State-Centric Conception of Human Rights
2010, Ethics and Global Politics 3 (3): 193-215.
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Abstract: In this essay I analyze some conceptual difficulties associated with the demand that global institutions be made more democratically accountable. In the absence of a world state, it may seem inconsistent to insist that global institutions be accountable to all those subject to their decisions while also insisting that the members of these institutions, as representatives of states, simultaneously remain accountable to the citizens of their own countries for the special responsibilities they have towards them. This difficulty seems insurmountable in light of the widespread acceptance of a state-centric conception of human rights, according to which states and only states bear primary responsibility for the protection of their citizens’ rights. Against this conception, I argue that in light of the current structures of global governance the monistic ascription of human rights obligations to states is no longer plausible. Under current conditions, states are bound to fail in their ability to protect the human rights of their citizens whenever potential violations either stem from transnational regulations or are perpetrated by non-state actors. In order to show the plausibility of an alternative, pluralist conception of human rights obligations I turn to the current debate among scholars of international law regarding the human rights obligations of non-state actors. I document the various ways in which these obligations could be legally entrenched in global financial institutions such as the WTO, the IMF and the World Bank. These examples indicate feasible methods for strengthening the democratic accountability of these institutions while also respecting the accountability that participating member states owe to their own citizens. I conclude that, once the distinctions between the obligations to respect, protect and fulfill human rights are taken into account, no conceptual difficulty remains in holding states and non-state actors accountable for their respective human rights obligations.

Comment: This journal article would fit well within a course that considers the political and legal aspects of human rights. It would also be useful in a course on global justice or global democracy. It will be of particular interest to advanced undergraduates and graduate students interested in non-state actors and human rights.

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Levenbook, Barbara Baum, , . Are There Any Positive Rights?
1990, Archiv für Rechts- Und Sozialphilosophie 42:156-66
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Added by: Chris Blake-Turner, Contributed by: Barbara Baum Levenbook

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Peetush, Ashwani Kumar, , Drydyk, Jay. Human Rights: India and the West
2015, Oxford University Press.
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Added by: Clotilde Torregrossa, Contributed by: Ashwani Kumar Peetush

Publisher’s Note: The question of how to arrive at a consensus on human rights norm in a diverse, pluralistic, and interconnected global environment is critical. This volume is a contribution to an intercultural understanding of human rights in the context of India and its relationship to the West. The legitimacy of the global legal, economic, and political order is increasingly premised on the discourse of international human rights. Yet the United Nations’ Declaration of Human Rights developed with little or no consultation from non-Western nations such as India. In response, there has developed an extensive literature and cross-cultural analysis of human rights in the areas of African, East-Asian, and Islamic studies, yet there is a comparative dearth of conceptual research relating to India. As problematically, there is an lacuna in the previous literature; it simply stops short at analyzing how Western understandings of human rights may be supported from within various non-Western cultural self-understandings; yet, surely, there is more to this issue. The chapters in this collection pioneer a distinct approach that takes such deliberation to a further level by examining what it is that the West itself may have to learn from various Indian articulations of human rights as well.

Comment: The subject of human rights in a pluralistic world is critical. Drawing on the vast traditions of India and the West, this volume is unique in providing interdisciplinary essays that range from theoretical, philosophical, normative, social, legal, and olitical issues in the conceptualization and application of a truly global understanding of human rights. While previous literature stops short at asking how Western understandings may be articulated in non-Western cultures, the essays here urthermore examine what the West may have to learn from Indian understandings.

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