Human rights define the relationship between citizens and the state, both in terms of constraints and obligations. But over the course of the last two decades there has been a systematic weakening of international human rights norms and laws, precipitated by, among other things, the global war on terror, the 2008 financial crisis, the rise of illiberal governments and the growing rivalry between the United States and China. With waves of COVID-19 sweeping the globe, debate has emerged over the relevance of human rights in the face of massive health crises and inequities. Does COVID-19 create the opportunity to protect the right to life, healthcare, freedom of movement, or does it negate human rights in favour of maintaining social and economic growth and a return to normalcy? As the world struggles to regain its composure in the face of a pandemic, now is the time to ask: what is the relevancy of human rights to geopoltics today?
Jeff Bachman is a Senior Professorial Lecturer at American University’s School of International Service. He is the author of The United States and Genocide: (Re)Defining the Relationship and the forthcoming The Politics of Genocide: From the Genocide Convention to the Responsibility to Protect.
Befekadu Bogale Biru has a B.A in Political Science and International Relations and M.A in International Relations, both from Addis Ababa University (Ethiopia) and also M.A in Theory and Practice of Human Rights from the University of Essex (UK). He served as Lecturer at Dire Dawa University (Ethiopia) and is currently a Researcher at the Institute of Strategic Affairs (Addis Ababa, Ethiopia).
Abby Kendrick is Senior Teaching Fellow in Political Economy at the University of Warwick. Originally trained as an economist, her work lies at the intersection of economics and human rights. She has written on the links between the politics of economic ideas and the realisation of human rights and has developed political economic approaches to theorising and measuring the realisation of economic and social rights in particular. Abby has also worked in the system of Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council, reporting on issues concerning the impact of economic policy reform on women’s human rights.
Allison Petrozziello is a feminist migration researcher and human rights advocate who is pursuing a PhD in Global Governance at the Balsillie School of International Affairs, where she is affiliated with the International Migration Research Centre. Drawing on over 15 years of international research, training, and advocacy work in Central America and the Caribbean, she has contributed to recent expert consultations by the UN Committees on the Rights of the Child and Migrant Workers and the Special Rapporteurs on Violence against Children and Violence against Women.
Moderated by Ann Fitz-Gerald, Balsillie School of International Affairs