The Future of Human Rights

This special section of the Global Policy journal on International Law, Human Rights and the Global Economy: Innovations and Expectations for the 21st Century, has delivered intended results as well as unanticipated gains. The former are conveyed through eight thoughtful and deeply-informed articles that cover normative shifts in the area of human rights protection and promotion (Salomon and Seiderman; Sornarajah), proposals on marrying the regulatory regimes and structures of the global economy with the requirements of human rights (Dowell-Jones; Herwig; Ooms and Hammonds; de Schutter), and the appraisal of judicial mechanisms that have the potential to bring accountability for human rights violations into the global era (Courtis; Scheinin). The articles are all written by international law experts and tailored to a cross-disciplinary audience of academics, practitioners and policymakers. The central aim of this special section is to make known global developments pertaining to socioeconomic rights that have so far fallen within the purview of only a reasonably small community of legal academics and NGOs, UN officials and diplomats. Even among professionals working on world affairs, to speak of international law and human rights is often to evoke thoughts of countering terrorism, justifying humanitarian intervention or enforcing international criminal justice. What remains overlooked is that the machinery of international law when it comes to human rights applies, in multifarious and significant ways, to matters of world poverty, inequality and development. In this special section we reclaim the thematic categories provided for on the Global Policy website – ‘development, inequality and poverty’, ‘global public goods’, the ‘world economy, trade and finance’, and demonstrate how they are (also) matters of ‘international law and human rights’. As the articles before you highlight, there are a number of substantive and procedural innovations that invite us to take a fresh look at how we think about the role of international law when it comes to the protection and promotion of human rights, as well as to contemplate seriously what we might expect of it in the coming years.