Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Conference: We Have Come a Long Way: The Universal Declaration of Human Rights at 70 – Normativity and Compliance

On December 7-8, 2018, the Technische Universität Dresden - in cooperation with the Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena, the Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg, and the Universität Leipzig - will convene a conference on "We Have Come a Long Way: The Universal Declaration of Human Rights at 70 – Normativity and Compliance," in Dresden. The program is here. Here's the idea:

On 10th December 1948, the UN General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Although not a legally binding instrument per se, the Declaration, in the 70 years of its existence, has both inspired and provided the framework for numerous legally-binding human rights treaties. Moreover, the core of human rights is recognized as customary international law. In legal terms, the world has thus made substantial progress in the sphere of human rights.

This legal situation stands in stark contrast to the human rights situation of many people in the world today. Lack of implementation of and compliance with human rights constitutes the major shortcoming of the international protection of human rights, even though the most important aspect of these rights in practice is their actual implementation, not their normative definition. For a long time, international law scholars have largely neglected the compliance record of States with international law as a field of research. However, particularly in the area of human rights, both the UN and the States were aware of the need for special monitoring mechanisms. For this reason, all human rights treaty regimes establish treaty bodies composed of independent experts. They help to ensure the implementation of human rights as well as encourage the States’ compliance with the treaties. In addition, the (former) UN Commission on Human Rights also developed several instruments to promote compliance, such as the institution of the Special Rapporteur. Moreover, at a regional level, human rights courts have been installed that can even issue legally binding judgements.

On the occasion of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights’ 70th anniversary, we will explore why, despite this range of compliance mechanisms, fundamental human rights are still not always adhered to. The conference will aim at a dialogue between members of several monitoring organs and scholars and confront practice with theory and vice versa.