How Human Rights are Monitored and Enforced

I.                   I. How are Human Rights Monitored and Enforced?

We have already been introduced to the nation-state.  The reality is that nation-states seek to pursue their own interests in international affairs.  Hence, the emergence of concepts such as “national interest” and “national security”.  This is pretty much the case with the domestic scene also.  However, the big difference between the domestic scene and politics on the world stage is that in the former, there are greater constrains on what individuals can do.  For example, we run a high risk that if we choose to drive at 90 miles an hour on a road with 55 miles an hour speed limit, we will be caught and punished according to the law.  Ideally, laws in the United States cannot overtly discriminate under the “equal protection” clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution; for example, an attorney is provided to indigent defendants in criminal cases. Thus, the law somewhat evens the playing field, though those with more power do seem to have more of an advantage than others.


However, in the international arena such constrains do not exist to the same degree.  There is, after all, no world government capable of making and enforcing law on the word stage, where nation-states are by definition sovereign.  Making and enforcing law at the international level is therefore a greater challenge.  Those with more power can get away with more in terms of not heeding legal restraints when it not in their interest to do so.  It is in this context that the test discusses the UN and other Human Rights actors, and the enforcement mechanisms that are available at the international level. (An Introduction to Global Studies, p. 105-114) When reading this section, think about the differences between the domestic and international systems, and the difficulties of enforcing law in the latter.


II.                Emerging Human Rights

What should be considered a fundamental human right is always subjected to debate and contestation.  For example, how should the various Articles in UDHR be interpreted? Furthermore, new areas of human rights are continuously introduced.  The text discusses these in the context of “emerging human rights”.  There are some examples:

a.       The Right to Water

b.      Sexual Rights

c.       DNA Rights

d.      Human Rights and Non-State Actors


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