Conference: “Putting Human Rights to the Test Claims, Interventions, and Contestations since 1990”

International Conference in Cologne, May 16-17, 2019 at the Fritz Thyssen Stiftung in Cologne

Cross-posted from https://www.hsozkult.de/event/id/termine-39458

The concept of human rights has profoundly shaped national and international policies after the end of the Cold War and during the worldwide wave of democratization at the end of the 20th Century. However, this development does not necessarily denote an upward trend in human rights. Although states, NGOs and International Organizations enacted important political projects, formulated symbolic demands or implemented instruments of transnational regulation under the label of human rights, the principle of human rights was also heavily contested and strongly rejected. Emphatic hopes of a New World Order of global justice, that had been sparked by human rights in the early 90s, soon faded. Mass killings could not be stopped, authoritarian regimes remained in power, and humanitarian interventions presented drastic and problematic side effects.

Historical research on this complex development has only just begun, with empirical studies and overarching interpretations still lacking. Nevertheless, critical reflection on the history of human rights over the last quarter century is essential for a better understanding of our political presence. This observation provides the starting point for our conference, which brings together experts from different disciplines and world regions to advance research and analysis on the recent history of human rights. The conference neither wants to reproduce the triumphalism of the 1990s nor the narrative of decline which has become dominant over the past years. Instead, it aims to sharpen perspectives on the contradictory developments by including diverse groups of actors in its analysis: states, International Organizations, NGOs, politicians, scholars and experts.

Human rights did not have a breakthrough in the 1990s – they were already a well-established instrument of national and international policies. However, International Organizations, NGOs, politicians, scholars and experts attributed more and more significance to human rights. By doing so – this is the assumption underlying the conference – they tested the limits of human rights policies. A growing number of actors began framing their concerns as human rights issues. The universal claim of human rights received unprecedented support and was adopted in interventionist practices, crossing national borders. At the same time – and in many cases as a direct consequence – the idea of universally valid individual rights was met with heavy opposition and alternative concepts. Different academic disciplines made human rights a subject of their research, thereby impacting the practice of human rights activism and policies. Accordingly, the conference is split into four panels focusing on these developments.

Registration: https://fts.veranstaltungs-anmeldung.de/

Programme:

Thursday, May 16, 2019

10.00 a.m. –5.30 p.m.

Welcome: Norbert Frei
Keynote
: Jan Eckel

Panel I: Expansion
Knud Andresen
(Hamburg): Multinational Corporations after Apartheid in South Africa
Celia Donert (Liverpool): Women’s Rights as Human Rights after 1990
Paul van Trigt (Leiden): The Fall of Utopia and the Integration of Disability in International Law

Panel II: Intervention
Stephen Wertheim
(New York): Transformative Interventions: The Militarization of Humanitarianism in the United States
Markus Eikel (Den Haag): International Criminal Law and the Prosecution of Human Rights Violations
Barbara Keys (Melbourne): The Convention against Torture as a Tool of Intervention


7.00 p.m.

Dan Diner (Jerusalem): Public Lecture

Dinner

Friday, May 17, 2019

9.30 a.m. – 4.30 p.m.


Panel III: Contestations and Alternatives

Katrin Kinzelbach (Berlin): Asian Values versus Western Values – a False Dichotomy
Gudrun Krämer (Berlin): On Difference and Hierarchy: Islamic Debates about Equity and Equality
Averell Schmidt (Boston): Torture during the War on Terror: A Story of Contestation
Robert Horvath (Melbourne): Nationalising Human Rights in Russia

Panel IV: Human Rights and Scholarship
Annette Weinke
(Jena): History und Transitional Justice – A Troubled Relationship
Matthias Koenig (Göttingen): Between Distance and Engagement – Human Rights in the Social Sciences
Heike Krieger (Berlin): From Euphoria to Skepticism: Human Rights Discourses in International Law

Observer statements

Michael Stolleis (Frankfurt a.M.)

Klaus Dicke (Jena)

Carola Sachse (Wien)



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