moving past promotion: securing human rights


Welcome to my blog! I’m an undergraduate at Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service, preparing to jump into thesis work on contemporary U.S. responses to genocide and mass atrocities. This blog will serve as a platform for commentary on international politics, African affairs, human rights advocacy, and miscellaneous, completely unrelated subjects.

A couple of comments on the blog title: First, a tip-of-the-hat to Kate and Amanda, whose labeling syntax has clearly served me well. Second, the title demonstrates the blog’s dual lens, approaching the processes, objectives, and perspectives of human rights advocacy from a security perspective. Over the past two centuries, since the early years of the Western European and American abolitionist movements, human rights advocates have been extraordinarily successful at promoting human rights–that is, proliferating a global discussion and use of human rights norms. If the 2005 World Summit‘s rhetorical endorsement of the “Responsibility to Protect” doctrine is any indication, human rights have received widespread recognition in international politics. However, large-scale, international human rights activity is often performative, rather than substantive, with few deliverables for civilians and civil societies in local communities.

It look more than two centuries of cataclysmic global conflict, a reconfiguration of global power dynamics, and the formation of a convoluted transnational-institutional bureaucracy for the international human rights community to reach R2P, the ultimate normative reconfiguration of the individual/society/state nexus. In 2011, 224 years after Thomas Clarkson convened the first British anti-slavery community at 2 George Yard, securing those rights in the reality of politics. International human rights responses to social upheavals in the Middle East and North Africa have thrust the promotion vs. security dilemma to the forefront of the blogosphere discourse. On Libya, bloggers and policy commentators contended with Anne-Marie Slaughter’s depiction of R2P/sovereignty antagonism. In Uzbekistan and Bahrain, U.S. security priorities have often trumped human rights concerns, leaving advocates with few leverage points against the respective regimes’ repressive behavior. On Sudan, advocates for civilian protection have had to confront the unnerving reality of dwindling U.S. influence in Khartoum. In the human rights community, we speak frequently about the need for new, creative approaches to the challenge of policy leverage; unfortunately, collective thinking on the leverage question has yet to bear fruit.

This blog is an attempt to address the leverage question, to adopt a critical, contextualized perspective towards human rights advocacy, and to incorporate an international security lens into the human rights discourse. As with many bloggers, Andrew Sullivan’s notion of the blog-as-curator underlines my concept of the blogger’s role in the public sphere. Accordingly, my posts will be a mix of information-sharing, analysis, and, to a lesser degree, personal reflection. I won’t post my frustrations with Georgetown basketball (Beat ‘Cuse!), or my disgust with the rise of hook-up culture on university campuses (certainly not–that would be the National Review’s responsibility, I suppose), but my religious, political, social, and cultural experiences indisputably affect my perception of and perspectives on global affairs. Much like the rest of the world, this blog and my opinions are dynamic entities, continuously evolving and re-inventing themselves. Being a student, I’ve read a small fraction of published work on genocide and mass atrocities, African politics, international relations, and other subjects addressed on this site. Pure consistency always struck me as a bit dishonest; as my global outlook evolves, through readings, travels, conversations, and professional encounters, I’ll do my best to narrate the process of continual discovery, so that anticipated ideological anomalies are, at the very least, transparent. For additional narrative forums, check out my Facebook and Twitter feeds.

Finally, a disclaimer: As you might expect, my official participation in the human rights community will limit my blogging scope; that said, I will never use the blog as a mouthpiece for STAND’s perspectives, nor as a vessel for inter-organization disputes. I encourage advocates, scholars, policymakers, and casual observers to join the conversation, to challenge my perspectives, and to create new approaches to securing human rights for years to come. Enjoy!

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