The Multilateral Human Rights System: Systemic Challenge or Healthy Contestation?
35 Maryland Journal of International Law (forthcoming)
15 Pages Posted: 24 Jun 2020
Date Written: May 27, 2020
This essay explores some of the parameters and merits of a putative argument that the announcement of June 19, 2018 that the United States would withdraw from the United Nations Human Rights Council might most properly be understood as but one manifestation of a wider political backlash within the US (and indeed other Western democracies) against the multilateral human rights system epitomized by the Council. There are two prongs to this argument. First, populist-nationalist political sentiment at home simultaneously fuels and is fanned by strident high-profile diplomatic critiques (or even rejections) of global bodies such as the Council. Second, the nature and force of this backlash constitutes a systemic threat to the future of the post-1945 rules-based international order, especially since it comes mostly from the superpower whose values-based rhetoric and leadership has perhaps done most to advance the global human rights agenda in the modern era.
Keywords: Human rights, populism, United Nations Human Rights Council, United States of America
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