Renewing Rights & Responsibilities

What are the rights and responsibilities that define the relationship of people to the government, and to each other?

In contrast to nations rooted in the blood ties of their people, the United States is built on a belief that the relationship of citizens to their government and to each other should be defined by rights and responsibilities. In the Gettysburg Address Abraham Lincoln expressed a vision of the United States as “a nation conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all [people] are created equal.”  Lincoln understood the promise and the challenge of human rights in the U.S.  

Human Rights, to Lincoln, promised to bind together a nation of diverse racial, ethnic, religious, cultural and political identities. Intolerance and injustice would challenge this promise. Meeting this challenge has required the constant renewal of rights to confront the legacy of slavery, the racism of the post-reconstruction era, the injustice of the Great Depression and the rise of totalitarianism in the 20th century.  Today we again face the challenge.   

What are the rights and responsibilities that define the relationship of people to the government and to each other? The system of rights expressed by the U.S. Constitution, and later by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, is facing severe threats today. The principle of free and fair elections is being subverted.  Racial, gender and religious discrimination, extremism and violence are being stimulated, condoned or ignored. Public discourse essential to democracy is being manipulated and degraded by new forms of digital communication, surveillance and personal data collection. Americans across the political spectrum are aware that their rights are under severe attack. This consensus creates a rare opportunity to reach people with different and competing conceptions of their rights and responsibilities as citizens, and to build support for reform and renewal of the entire system.

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College Students Don’t Turn out to Vote. Here’s How to Change That

College Students Don’t Turn out to Vote. Here’s How to Change That

Abstract:

Kathryn Sikkink maps out a plan to encourage voter turnout among college students. 

College students have traditionally voted at one of the lowest rates of any group in the United States. But it doesn’t have to be that way. In the 2018 midterm election, the voting rate at U.S. colleges and universities more than doubled from the previous midterm, jumping from 19% in 2014 to 40%. That increase was 7 percentage points higher than the increase in voting rates among all Americans.

: Kathryn Sikkink | Jan 2020
: Kathryn Sikkink maps out a plan to encourage voter turnout among college students. 

How Democracy in America Can Survive Donald Trump

Citation:

John Shattuck. 2/23/2018. “How Democracy in America Can Survive Donald Trump.” The American Prospect. Publisher's Version
How Democracy in America Can Survive Donald Trump

Abstract:

New article by Senior Fellow John Shattuck in The American Prospect.

Alexis de Tocqueville observed in 1835 that “the greatness of America lies not in being more enlightened than any other nation, but rather in her ability to repair her faults.” Tocqueville’s observation, broadly accurate over the past two centuries, is facing perhaps its most severe test today.

In its 2016 “Democracy Index” report, the Economist Intelligence Unit downgraded the United States from a “full” to a “flawed democracy.” In 2018, Freedom House offered a more dire assessment: “[D]emocratic institutions have suffered erosion, as reflected in partisan manipulation of the electoral process, bias and dysfunction in the criminal justice system, and growing disparities in wealth, economic opportunity, and political influence.”

Declining participation and confidence in government are not new, but the populist forces that propelled the election of Donald Trump signaled a new level of public disillusionment with democratic politics and institutions. During his campaign and first year in office, Trump’s core constituency cheered him on as he attacked fundamental elements of liberal democracy, including media freedom, judicial independence, and a pluralist civil society. 

Read the full article in The American Prospect. 

: John Shattuck | Feb 23 2018
: New article by Senior Fellow John Shattuck in The American Prospect.
Last updated on 01/07/2020

Human Rights Aren’t Just from the Global North – so Why Aren’t We Talking About It?

Human Rights Aren’t Just from the Global North – so Why Aren’t We Talking About It?

Abstract:

Kathryn Sikkink looks at the outstanding contributions of human rights activists from Chile to China.

When we discuss the origins of human rights, we tend to focus on contributors from the Global North like Eleanor Roosevelt and René Cassin. But are we getting the full picture? Kathryn Sikkink, author of Evidence for Hope: Making Human Rights Work in the 21st Century, says no. She argues that human rights owe their existence to a global effort, with important contributors from the Global South.   

RightsInfo went to her talk, organised by the Centre on Conflict, Rights and Justice and the Centre for International Studies and Diplomacy, to find out more.

When we discuss the origins of human rights, we tend to focus on contributors from the Global North like Eleanor Roosevelt and René Cassin. But are we getting the full picture? Kathryn Sikkink, author of Evidence for Hope: Making Human Rights Work in the 21st Century, says no. She argues that human rights owe their existence to a global effort, with important contributors from the Global South.  

Original Article on Rights Info.

: Kathryn Sikkink | Mar 14 2018
: Kathryn Sikkink looks at the outstanding contributions of human rights activists from Chile to China.
Last updated on 01/07/2020
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In contrast to nations rooted in the blood ties of their people, the U.S. is rooted in the belief that the relationship of citizens to their government and to each other is defined by a system of rights that expresses the core values of American democracy.

- John Shattuck