Webinar with Kathryn Sikkink (Harvard Kennedy School of Government)
Some human rights critics claim that human rights movements go hand in hand with the rise of neoliberalism and thus are either complicit with or helpless in preventing the rise of inequality in the world. Drawing on her book, Evidence for Hope: Making Human Rights Work in the 21st Century, Professor Kathryn Sikkink will argue that the relationship between inequality, neoliberalism, and human rights is more complex than the critics make it out to be. The claim that human rights are “complicit” with neoliberalism and its attendant inequalities is based mainly on a flawed chronology of human rights origins; that human rights emerged in the 1970s, concurrent with the rise of neoliberalism. Sikkink demonstrates that the norms, laws, and institutions for the international protection of human rights originated in the 1940s and owe their existence to geographically diverse movements. The human rights movements in Latin America in the 1970s and 1980s struggled against the repressive policies of neoliberal authoritarian regimes. Rather than human rights policies leading to or enabling neo-liberal policies which in turn increase economic inequality, as the critics claim, studies show that income inequality exacerbates the risk of human rights violations like personal integrity rights abuse and violence against women. Using a method of empirical comparison, Sikkink shows that the human rights movement has been effective at addressing multiple forms of inequality, giving us reason to believe these movements can address economic inequality as well.
Kathryn Sikkink, Ryan Family Professor of Human Rights Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, is an international relations scholar best known for her work on human rights, international norms, transnational advocacy networks and social movements, and transitional justice. Her books include: Activists beyond Borders: Advocacy Networks in International Politics (co-authored with Margaret Keck); The Justice Cascade: How Human Rights Prosecutions are Changing World Politics; Evidence for Hope: Making Human Rights Work in the 21st Century; The Hidden Face of Rights: Toward a Politics of Responsibility (Yale University Press, 2020); and most recently (co-authored with Richard Price) International Norms, Moral Psychology and Neuroscience (Cambridge University Press Elements Series, 2021). Sikkink has been a Fulbright Scholar in Argentina and a Guggenheim fellow. She holds a Ph.D. from Columbia University.