Occupy Wall Street and International Human Rights

29 Pages Posted: 8 Sep 2012

See all articles by Martha F. Davis

Martha F. Davis

Northeastern University - School of Law

Date Written: 2012


This article employs a human rights lens to examine the extreme economic inequality targeted by Occupy Wall Street (OWS). First, I look at the fundamental question of whether such economic inequality constitutes a human rights violation. To analyze that question, I begin by examining the extent to which poverty has been deemed to raise international human rights concerns, finding that international human rights institutions have generally addressed poverty by focusing on the ways in which poverty frustrates the exercise of substantive and procedural human rights. I then use a similar lens to examine the issue of economic inequality, concluding that there is only scant support for the claim that extreme economic inequality in a highly developed nation like the U.S. directly violates human rights norms. Next, I review the ways in which poor people’s movements in the U.S. have utilized human rights framing to further their social change efforts, particularly in the last decade. Finally, I examine the extent to which human rights-based frames might be available to OWS given its attention to economic inequality in the midst of the relative prosperity of a developed nation. I propose two frames drawing on international human rights norms that might serve the OWS Movement well in both domestic and international forums, and could also push further development of international law in this area.

Suggested Citation

Davis, Martha F., Occupy Wall Street and International Human Rights (2012). Fordham Urban Law Journal, Vol. 39, pp. 931-958, 2012, Northeastern University School of Law Research Paper No. 107-2012, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2143162

Martha F. Davis (Contact Author)

Northeastern University - School of Law ( email )

416 Huntington Avenue
Boston, MA 02115
United States

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