The Power of Rights

Today, commitments to human rights are under pressure everywhere. Even while broad social movements grab attention with demands for bread, justice, and dignity, governments of all stripes are finding excuses to weaken their resolve, to let the cause slip away. Commitments are postponed or abandoned, defenders of rights are attacked as foreign agents or worse. And within the human rights movement itself, questions are raised about the use of force in defense of rights, about the particular ideologies embedded in universal claims, about the links between prosperity and rights.

We will resist the pressures that threaten rights and urge us to compromise our commitments. At the same time, we will continually revisit, revise, and strengthen the concepts that underpin our commitments and that give rights power in the world. When people see their rights eroded in countries where those same rights have so recently had the strongest champions, what are they to do? When claiming one’s rights is said to insult one’s family, to disrespect one’s tribe, to betray one’s nation, what is one to do, what are we all to do? Are the international human rights mechanisms our best safeguards, or must we build new structures for the defense of rights? If independent media have been essential to the advance of rights, how are we to understand the existential dangers that confront journalism today? What do human rights mean for millions of desperate individuals and families beyond the protection of law, beyond the reach of any human rights defender? These are not just theoretical questions: they pose choices with life-and-death consequences for thousands every day. Even as we continue to act in support of human rights and open society, we must face these questions and integrate our answers—however tentative—in our actions.

Source: The Open Society Foundation

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