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Between Hope and Despair: Progress and Resilience in the Inter-American Human Rights System

  • Par Engstrom (a1)

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The inter-American human rights system (IAS) faces a region that has turned distinctly hostile to human rights. For many, the ongoing crisis in Venezuela is ground zero, demonstrating the ineffectiveness of international human rights when confronted with an entrenched regime supported by major powers such as Russia and China. In this multipolar world, reinforced by a transactional and antiliberal U.S. foreign policy, human rights concerns seem to have little salience. Moreover, the regional Right-wing trend and the so-called populist resurgence underpin a political vision in the Americas that is distinctly antirights. And to make matters worse, some argue, we are anyway in the end-times of human rights—the age of international courts and liberal cosmopolitanism is over. While recognizing that these overlapping political trends pose clear challenges to the IAS, this essay offers a more cool-headed analysis to suggest that the system's future is likely to be less apocalyptic than the doomsayers predict. The first part of the essay takes a sober look at the multiple political challenges facing the IAS today and their implications for human rights advocacy. In the second part, against the background of the inhospitable conditions facing human rights activists in the region, I highlight the role of civil-society actors in strengthening and embedding the IAS. As it is precisely the regional embeddedness of the IAS on which the system's future hinges, the third part highlights the need not only to defend progress, but also to strengthen resilience.

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This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

References

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1 Stephen Hopgood, The Endtimes of Human Rights (2013).

2 Jorge Contesse, Conservative Governments and Latin America's Human Rights Landscape, 113 AJIL Unbound 375 (2019).

4 Latinobarómetro, Informe 2018 (2018).

8 Ximena Soley, The Crucial Role of Human Rights NGOs in the Inter-American System, 113 AJIL Unbound 355 (2019).

9 Par Engstrom & Peter Low, Mobilising the Inter-American Human Rights System: Regional Litigation and Domestic Human Rights Impact in Latin America, in The Inter-American Human Rights System: Impact Beyond Compliance 23–58 (Par Engstrom ed., 2019).

10 Id.

12 Emilio Fermín Mignone, Derechos Humanos y Sociedad: El Caso Argentino (1991).

15 Hopgood, supra note 1.

17 Par Engstrom & Andrew Hurrell, Why the Human Rights Regime in the Americas Matters, in Human Rights Regimes in the Americas (Mónica Serrano & Vesselin Popovski eds., 2010).

18 Jacob Mchangama & Guglielmo Verdirame, The Danger of Human Rights Proliferation, Foreign Aff. (July 24, 2013).

19 Philip Alston, The Populist Challenge to Human Rights, 9 J. Hum. Rts. Prac. 1–15 (2017).

20 Gráinne de Búrca, Human Rights Experimentalism, 111 AJIL 277 (2017).

Between Hope and Despair: Progress and Resilience in the Inter-American Human Rights System

  • Par Engstrom (a1)

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