January 27, 2015
While countries around the world affirm their commitment to human rights with international treaties and conventions, flagrant violations of human rights continue. Well-known violators like Libya, Saudi Arabia, and Sudan have sat on the U.N. Council on Human Rights, while Brazil pursues extrajudicial killings, South Africa employs violence against protestors, and the United States tortures. In The Twilight of Human Rights Law—the latest entry to Oxford University Press’s Inalienable Rights series, edited by Geoffrey Stone—eminent legal scholar Eric A. Posner argues that the reason for this failure is due to the contradiction between the goal of enforcing human rights, which requires simple rules, and the reality of governance, which requires flexibility and discretion. Fundamental disagreements about how governments should allocate limited resources to advance the public good have led to a huge number of vague human rights regulations and weak enforcement machinery that cannot keep these rules in place.
As an alternative to the existing human rights system, Posner looks to the foreign aid model, contending that we should judge compliance by comprehensive, concrete metrics like poverty reduction, instead of relying on ambiguous, weak, and easily manipulated checklists of specific rights. To ensure effectiveness, Posner argues, an understanding of development economics should be made the foundation of this new empirical system. With a powerful thesis, a concise overview of the major developments in international human rights law, and discussions of recent international human rights-related controversies, The Twilight of Human Rights Law is an indispensable contribution to this important area of international law from a leading scholar in the field.
Eric A. Posner is Kirkland and Ellis Distinguished Service Professor of Law at the University of Chicago. He has written nine books and more than one hundred articles on international law, constitutional law, and other topics. Posner has written opinion pieces for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, New Republic, Slate, and other popular media. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a member of the American Law Institute.
Geoffrey R. Stone is the Edward H. Levi Distinguished Service Professor at the University of Chicago. He recently served on the President’s Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies. Currently chief editor of a 20-volume series, Inalienable Rights, published by the Oxford University Press, Stone has also authored many books on constitutional law. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a member of the America Law Institute, the National Advisory Council of the American Civil Liberties Union, and a member of the American Philosophical Society.
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Sponsored by the International House Global Voices Author Night Series, the Seminary Co-op Bookstore, and the University of Chicago Law School.