The proliferation of human rights: Between devotion and calculation

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


This chapter explores how enlightened pragmatism demands that common sense and realistic capacities temper an ‘everything goes’ devotee approach to human rights by reshaping the narrative that proliferation is a negative concept. It speaks to the ways in which this balancing act has played out in terms of proliferation in the human rights system and perhaps how it should play out in the future. First explored is the legal and political machinery designed to protect human rights. Next, the chapter focuses on the positive and negative aspects of entrenching human rights language. Finally, the work considers critiques of the expansive interpretation or application of human rights. From increased monitoring and enforcement mechanisms and global use of human rights language to more expansive interpretations and applications of human rights law, the reality is that human rights law must evolve and respond to its environment if it is to remain relevant.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCan We Still Afford Human Rights?
Subtitle of host publicationCritical Reflections on Universality Costs and Proliferation
EditorsJan Wouters, Koen Lemmens, Thomas Van Poecke, Marie Bourguignon
PublisherEdward Elgar Publishing
Number of pages29
ISBN (Electronic)9781839100321
ISBN (Print)9781839100314
Publication statusPublished - 13 Oct 2020

Publication series

NameLeuven Global Governance Series
PublisherEdward Elgar Publishing


  • proliferation
  • human rights treaties
  • treaty bodies
  • pragmatism
  • living instruments
  • UDHR


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