What human rights norms do Western European countries promote? #TimeToAct

jolie and hagueWilliam Hague and Angelina Jolie are hosting a global summit in London to put an end to sexual violence in conflict (follow #TimeToAct). In June 2013, Madrid hosted the 5th world conference on (against) death penalty. It was organised by an abolitionist group (ECPM), and sponsored by the Governments of Spain, France, Switzerland and Norway.

Western European countries promote international human rights norms. The summits of London and Madrid are just two examples of what and how they do it. Now, the questions are: Why do they do it? And, related to this, what kind of norms do they promote?

According to Finnemore and Sikkink’s famous model of international norm diffusion, states play a major role in this process when they choose to embrace certain norms, understood as “standards for the appropriate behavior of states”. Finnemore and Sikkink are of the opinion that states promote human rights norms “for reasons that relate to their identities as members of the international society”. In other words, states promote norms because they consider them legitimate.

I hold a different opinion. Continue reading “What human rights norms do Western European countries promote? #TimeToAct”

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A normative defence of a foreign policy in line with human rights

dialogue coverThis article was originally published in Dialogue, issue 6, winter 2013.

In the last two decades, norms and beliefs have put on weight in scholarly research in international relations. Traditional (neo)realists would still insist that international relations are only about one predetermined goal, that is, survival. Nonetheless, among those willing to accept that there is room for choice in foreign affairs, the study of human rights in foreign policy has focused so far on issues like motivations, consistency, assessment and impact. These are certainly critical aspects that deserve due attention in order to comprehend the possibilities of a foreign policy that includes human rights into its defining elements. However, I believe it is time to take another step and make the case that the existing global legal regime imposes certain human rights duties on States also when they work as international actors. Continue reading “A normative defence of a foreign policy in line with human rights”

Mapping human rights or how to sieve governments’ words into the bowl of facts

mapI will be honest with you: I tend to dislike the idea of categorising human rights violations with numbers. If human rights are indivisible and interdependent, how can we say that the violation of this right deserves a “4” while the violation of that one will do with a “2”. Does that mean that two of the latter equal one of the former? It won’t be me telling that to the victim. Continue reading “Mapping human rights or how to sieve governments’ words into the bowl of facts”

The role of Human Rights in foreign policy making in Europe: 4 questions and 2 observations

bad2013This blog post is a collection of open questions rather than the statement of an opinion. I hereby want to share with you the 4 questions and 2 observations that are inspiring the doctoral project that I have recently started at King’s College London.

In a paper published in 1998, Martha Finnemore and Kathryn Sikkink famously presented a model of international norm diffusion based on a three-stage life cycle: emergence, cascade and internalisation. States and international organisations play the main role at the second stage, in the “norm cascade”, when they choose to embrace certain norms, understood as “standards for the appropriate behavior of states” (p. 893). Finnemore and Sikkink argue that “states comply with norms in stage 2 for reasons that relate to their identities as members of the international society” (p. 902). 1st question: Do legitimacy and reputation sufficiently explain the motives behind a given country’s decision to be a international human rights norm promoter? Continue reading “The role of Human Rights in foreign policy making in Europe: 4 questions and 2 observations”

Is Russia a human rights promoter in the Snowden case?

Edward SnowdenIt seems that the former NSA employee Edward Snowden remains in the transit zone of Moscow airport. At least, that´s what President Putin said a couple of days ago in a press conference in Finland. Putin claimed to be as surprised as any other, and argued that Snowden was just a “transit passenger” and therefore didn´t need a visa or any other document. The Russian President also said that, since Snowden “has not crossed” the Russian border and he “has not committed any crime” on Russian soil, there are no grounds for prosecution in Russia or for deportation to the US, with which Russia has no extradition treaty. Considering Snowden has reportedly applied for asylum from Ecuador, when the Russian Premier was asked about the similarities between his case and the one of Julian Assange, Putin responded with another question: “Just like Snowden, (Assange) considers himself a rights advocate and fights for sharing information. Ask yourself: should or should not people like these be extradited to be later put to jail?” Continue reading “Is Russia a human rights promoter in the Snowden case?”

Where is the Tea Party? And where do Republicans stand on foreign policy?

Nearly a year ago, I shared in this blog a fascinated look at the Tea Party. From a social movement theoretical perspective, and based on my own personal experience living in the US and on the analysis of news sources, I tried to identify a few lessons we could learn from the rapid rise and relative success of the Tea Party movement. I made (or borrowed) a couple of predictions: firstly, that the relevance of the Tea Party would diminish progressively; and secondly, on foreign policy, following Walter Russell Mead, the Palinite wing (after Sarah Palin: nationalist, vigorous and hawkish) would predominate over the Paulite wing of the Tea Party (after Ron Paul: isolationist and in favour of a limited interpretation of “national interests”). Has time confirmed or refuted these two predictions? Continue reading “Where is the Tea Party? And where do Republicans stand on foreign policy?”

Syria: Diplomacy versus international criminal law?

A fragile ceasefire took hold yesterday in Syria. It is the result of Kofi Annan’s plan, backed by the UN Security Council about a month ago. The plan, it’s important to note, doesn’t demand a regime change in Syria, but only a commitment to an “inclusive Syria-led political process to address the legitimate aspirations and concerns of the Syrian people”. Russia and China were not willing to go any further.

In the beginning, Europeans’ attitude was rather energetic demanding Assad to step down. However, Europe is softening its line now. After the Libyan experience, and certainly more focused on domestic economy-related affairs, the EU seems frightened of the regional instability that would derive from a prolonged war in Syria. The Union has been struggling to play a meaningful role in the country, and it now openly backs Annan’s diplomatic approach and proposes a political path forward not preconditioned on Assad’s resignation. Continue reading “Syria: Diplomacy versus international criminal law?”