Debating Human Rights and Decolonization

human rights logoFabian Klose
Leibniz Institute of European History, Mainz
Editor,
Humanitarianism & Human Rights

What was the role that universal human rights played in the process of decolonization? What links can we identify between both phenomena as they gained real momentum after 1945?

For too long historical research has neglected this issue. Only a few books on the historiography of the human rights idea linked the dissolution of European colonial empires with the debates on universal fundamental rights. Particular mention should be made here of the work by Paul Gordon Lauren (The Evolution of International Human Rights. Visions Seen, Philadelphia 1998) and Brian Simpson (Human Rights and the End of Empire. Britain and Genesis of the European Convention, Oxford 2001), who both addressed for the first time the important connections between human rights discourse and the end of colonial rule. Continue reading “Debating Human Rights and Decolonization”

France in Africa – Imperialist Humanitarian?

Francois Hollande, Socialist Party president-elect of France, waves to supporters in Toulouse. (Regis Duvignau/courtesy Reuters)
Francois Hollande waves to supporters in Toulouse. (Regis Duvignau/courtesy Reuters)

Martin Thomas
Director, Centre for the Study of War, State and Society, University of Exeter

As the UN warns of an impending humanitarian disaster in the Central African Republic (CAR), what should we make of France’s recent back-to-back interventions in sub-Saharan Africa? Is there an echo in this of the clientalist politics pursued by France in Africa in the years after formal decolonization? Continue reading “France in Africa – Imperialist Humanitarian?”

Human Rights and ‘Neoliberalism’

Samuel Moyn

Samuel Moyn
James Bryce Professor of European Legal History, Columbia University

Cross-posted from Humanitarianism and Human Rights
9/12/13

Much ink has now been spilled on the historical origins of human rights. That debate will continue no doubt. I have surveyed the wreckage in a recent review essay (in English here, but for some similar thoughts auf Deutsch see here) but there is no doubt that problems large and small remain to resolve.

One of the biggest is how to formulate the historical relationship between humanitarianism and human rights. In my view, the best thing to say is that the former is old and the latter (conceptualized as the quest for an international regime pursued by transnational movements) is new, though humanitarianism certainly did create many   norms originally framed outside an individualist or rights-based paradigm that contemporary movements have now put in one. Continue reading “Human Rights and ‘Neoliberalism’”