It’s been more than seventy years since, following the atrocities of World War II, the nations of the world adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. Since then, multiple human rights treaties and conventions have been drafted, and most countries have ratified one or more of them—including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and treaties focused on torture, race- and sex-based discrimination, and the rights of children. Human rights organizations have proliferated at the domestic and global levels, and international institutions dedicated to the monitoring and enforcement of human rights, including commissions, special rapporteurs, and courts, are well established.
Americans live in a country founded on the concept of individual rights, but human rights experts say more work still needs to be done teaching people what rights actually are, where they come from, and how their neighbors’ rights intertwine with their own.
A major new initiative from the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy will seek to bridge that gap, particularly in the area of how individual rights are inextricably linked to societal responsibility. The two-year research initiative is titled “Renewing Rights and Responsibilities in the US.”
“We want to get people to think about human rights and to remind them of their relevance,” said Mathias Risse, the Lucius N. Littauer Professor of Philosophy and Public Administration and faculty director of the Carr Center. “We want to remind people of the content of the American Declaration of Independence and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and to remind people of the significance of looking after every single person. That’s really the purpose of this initiative.”