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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