Introduction: How to Bring Normative Requirements to Bear on Institutions Beyond the State
Journal of Social Philosophy, Vol. 40, No. 4, pp. 461-465, Winter 2009
5 Pages Posted: 3 Aug 2010 Last revised: 27 Sep 2010
Date Written: December 1, 2009
Our globalized world order requires us to consider how human rights norms are best brought to bear on institutions and actors beyond the state. We live in a system of states: state governments and state borders are central shapers of the rules and actors of political, social, and economic interaction. But states are not the only important factors: our world order is also characterized by globalization. Economic, political, and social networks, regimes, and organizations all have impacts that cross borders and that are beyond the control of any single state. This is true even of the powerful states, but especially so for weak or “failed” states whose control over territory is tenuous. The present global basic structure is thus not best regarded solely as a network of sovereign states, but as a system of “multi-level governance” where states and other actors enjoy several forms of decision making. “Multi-level” here refers both to the territorial dispersal of political authority from the state upward to supranational levels and downward to subnational levels, with complex forms of interplay, and it also refers to the “horizontal” dispersal of authority, where nonstate actors also contribute to the formulation and implementation of rules. In such a globalized world order where states play new roles, the function of human rights must also be rethought. Consider that many discussions about human rights since the Second World War have, under the influence of international law, regarded states as the primary if not the sole duty bearer with regard to human rights. The citizens’ own government would have primary responsibility to respect, protect, and fulfill human rights, while other states would have subsidiary obligations only when these arrangements failed. In our world order, we must reflect on how human rights can best be brought to bear on other parts of this emerging system of multi-level governance.
Keywords: Human Rights, States, Globalization, Political Philosophy
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